The Mesothelioma Applied Research Foundation (MARF) announced the recipients of the 2018 mesothelioma research grants:
- The first program to receive funding is called “Using gene expression to predict successful responses to chemoimmunotherapy”—a study that examines how a patient’s genes determine the success of their treatment.
- The second project will look into “Genetic variants, pathways, and drug targets of peritoneal mesothelioma”—a study that will look at the different gene mutations in peritoneal mesothelioma patients and the most effective treatment options to target these mutations.
About Project 1—Gene Expression and Mesothelioma Treatment Success
The first study to receive MARF funding is led by Anna Nowak, a medical oncologist and researcher from the University of Western Australia. She and her team are studying the connection between a mesothelioma patient’s gene expression and the success of their treatment, which in this case, is a combination of chemotherapy and immunotherapy.
This study builds on the DREAM trial—a phase 2 study that looked at the effectiveness of combining pemetrexed and cisplatin (the current standard chemotherapy treatment for mesothelioma) with durvalumab (an immunotherapy drug) to treat mesothelioma.
The results of the DREAM trial were very positive. In more than half the participants, the chemotherapy and immunotherapy drugs together shrunk patient tumors. For two-thirds of the patients, their tumors did not grow for at least 6 months. But, as Dr. Nowak explains “Not everyone responds to this treatment.”
Dr. Nowak and her team are trying to discover what about a patient’s gene expression prevents the combination of pemetrexed and cisplatin with durvalumab from working.
The main goal of the study funded through the [Mesothelioma Applied Research] Foundation is to help us understand if the treatment combination used in the DREAM trial will work for someone before they undertake it, therefore preventing unnecessary toxicities and waste of precious treatment time. —Dr. Anna Nowak
Knowing if the treatment will work ahead of time is not the only benefit of this study. If Dr. Nowak and her team can discover why the treatment works for some people, then perhaps they can learn how to improve its effectiveness for everyone regardless of their gene expression.
About Project 2—Gene Mutations in Peritoneal Mesothelioma Patients
The second study led by Dr. Waqas Amin of the University of Pittsburgh will focus on peritoneal mesothelioma.
While peritoneal mesothelioma is the second most common mesothelioma location, it has no standard treatment. Some doctors have successfully treated patients with Hyperthermic Intraperitoneal Chemotherapy (HIPEC). However, like all mesothelioma treatments, HIPEC does not work for everyone, and the researchers don’t know why.
Dr. Amin’s study will analyze the 3 mesothelioma cell types—epithelioid, sarcomatoid and biphasic (mixed)—to determine which gene mutations in peritoneal mesothelioma patients are related to these subtypes. This study will allow researchers to have a better understanding of which gene mutations are involved with peritoneal mesothelioma.
Dr. Amin and his team hope that this study will be a jumping off point for additional research into targeted peritoneal mesothelioma therapies. As he explains, if he and his team can discover gene mutations that already have known treatments available, then there will be new therapeutic opportunities for patients.
Additionally, this research could help with the creation of new screening tools. If doctors are given new screening tools, it could help them diagnose patients earlier and begin treatment sooner—the earlier treatment begins, the more successful it can be.
About Mesothelioma Applied Research Foundation (MARF) Grants
MARF is a nonprofit organization that raises funding for promising and peer-reviewed research into mesothelioma. To find a cure, MARF believes it’s important to bring together the field’s thought-leaders and provide them with the opportunities they need to bring their research ideas to life. Each year, they award grants to researchers around the world who apply for funding.
The donors to the funds are all families who have been impacted by mesothelioma. For the 2018 grants, the donations came from The Anderson Family Research Grant and The Lance S. Ruble, Donald E. Smitley, Craig S. Kozicki, and Ferraro Law Firm Research Grant.
While the amount of money offered in each grant can vary depending on how much money the donors were able to raise, the amount raised since the beginning of the MARF grants is not insignificant. As of now, MARF has funded more than $10.2 million for mesothelioma research.
These research grants provide hope for the mesothelioma research community—professionals and advocates dedicated to finding a cure for mesothelioma. While there is no cure yet, their commitment is currently improving the survival and quality of life of patients around the world.