Mesothelioma is a rare, aggressive cancer that is most commonly associated with exposure to asbestos. It typically affects the lining of the chest and lungs (pleural mesothelioma) or the lining of the abdomen (peritoneal mesothelioma). Mesothelioma is notoriously difficult to treat, and the prognosis for patients with this disease is generally poor. However, in recent years, there has been some progress in the development of targeted therapies for mesothelioma. In this article, we will explore the success rate of these therapies and provide an overview of the current state of mesothelioma treatment.
Targeted therapies are a type of cancer treatment that focuses on specific molecules or pathways that are involved in the growth and spread of cancer cells. Unlike traditional chemotherapy, which targets all rapidly dividing cells (both cancerous and healthy), targeted therapies aim to selectively kill cancer cells while sparing healthy tissue. There are several different types of targeted therapies, including:
Monoclonal antibodies: These are laboratory-made molecules that bind to specific proteins on the surface of cancer cells, triggering an immune response that destroys the cells.
Tyrosine kinase inhibitors (TKIs): These drugs block the activity of enzymes called tyrosine kinases, which play a key role in the growth and division of cancer cells.
Immune checkpoint inhibitors: These drugs help the immune system recognize and attack cancer cells by blocking proteins that prevent immune cells from recognizing cancer as a threat.
PARP inhibitors: These drugs block the activity of an enzyme called PARP, which is involved in DNA repair. By blocking PARP, cancer cells are unable to repair DNA damage and eventually die.
So, what is the success rate of targeted therapies for mesothelioma? Unfortunately, the answer is not straightforward. The success of any cancer therapy depends on a variety of factors, including the stage of the disease, the location of the cancer, the patient’s overall health, and the specific therapy being used. Additionally, mesothelioma is a relatively rare cancer, and there have been relatively few clinical trials of targeted therapies specifically for this disease.
Despite these challenges, there have been some promising results from clinical trials of targeted therapies for mesothelioma. For example, several studies have shown that a monoclonal antibody called pembrolizumab (Keytruda) can be effective in treating mesothelioma. In a phase II clinical trial, pembrolizumab was given to 25 patients with mesothelioma who had previously undergone chemotherapy. Of these patients, 20% saw a partial response (meaning their tumors shrank by at least 30%), and another 24% had stable disease (meaning their tumors did not grow). The median overall survival was 18.5 months, which is longer than the typical survival time for patients with advanced mesothelioma.
Another promising targeted therapy for mesothelioma is the TKI crizotinib (Xalkori). In a phase II clinical trial, crizotinib was given to 87 patients with mesothelioma who had a specific genetic mutation called ALK rearrangement. Of these patients, 66% saw a partial response, and another 29% had stable disease. The median progression-free survival (meaning the time before the cancer started growing again) was 7.3 months.
In addition to these targeted therapies, there are also several ongoing clinical trials of other targeted therapies for mesothelioma. For example, there are trials of drugs that target the mesothelin protein (which is overexpressed in mesothelioma cells), as well as trials of drugs that block the activity of a protein called FAK (which is involved in cancer cell migration and invasion).
While these results are certainly promising, it’s worth noting that targeted therapies are not a cure for mesothelioma. Even in the most successful clinical trials, only a minority of patients saw a significant response to the therapy, and the duration of response was often limited. Additionally, targeted therapies can have side effects, and some patients may not be eligible for certain therapies due to factors like their genetic makeup or overall health.
Overall, while there is still much work to be done in the development of targeted therapies for mesothelioma, there is reason to be optimistic about the future of mesothelioma treatment. As more research is conducted and more therapies are developed, we may be able to improve the prognosis for patients with this challenging disease.