CAR T-cell therapy is showing promising results for mesothelioma patients in a clinical trial. The therapy, a form of immunotherapy, may extend the lives of mesothelioma patients significantly.
With CAR T-cell therapy, doctors reprogram the patient’s T-cells to attack the cancer by targeting a surface protein called mesothelin.
Dr. Prasad Adusumilli at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center is the primary investigator in the phase I clinical trial, which launched in 2015. The trial involves genetically engineered T-cells and patients with pleural mesothelioma.
A total of 21 patients were involved in the study, and they received various combinations of treatment along with CAR T-cell therapy. Some of these patients also received a drug that blocked interaction with PD-1, another type of protein that prevents the immune system from attacking the cancer. In addition, most of the patients also received the preconditioning chemotherapy drug cyclophosphamide.
With patients in Dr. Adusumilli’s trial, the modified cells were injected directly into the chest where the tumors were located.
A clinical evaluation was presented by Dr. Adusumilli at the American Association for Cancer Research meeting on March 31.
Patients who were given all three therapies saw significant tumor shrinkage. Two patients experienced a complete metabolic response.
Among the 21 patients, 13 saw significant tumor shrinkage. Following the CAR T-cell treatment and tumor shrinkage, one patient was able to undergo curative-intent surgery.
Phase I of the trial found little sign of serious toxicities related to CAR T-cell therapy, which was the original intent of the study.
CAR T-cell therapies were first approved in 2017 for some lymphomas and leukemias. After the T-cells are altered in the lab, they are returned to the patient through an IV, which directs them straight to the cancer.
The initial problem with CAR T-cell therapy is that it isn’t as effective when cells have to travel far through the bloodstream to reach tumors in the breast, colon, lungs and other places. Dr. Adusumilli designed a new therapy that helps avoid these problems.