A mesothelioma new treatment has been cleared for use on patients, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The treatment combines two immunotherapy drugs to help the body destroy cancerous tumors. Learn how this important announcement may benefit you.

FDA Greenlights Opdivo-Yervoy Drug Therapy for Pleural Mesothelioma

On October 2, 2020, the FDA approved a new first-line drug treatment regimen for malignant pleural mesothelioma.

This new mesothelioma treatment combines two immunotherapy drugs manufactured by Bristol-Myers Squibb: Opdivo® (nivolumab) and Yervoy® (ipilimumab). Together, these two drugs can limit tumor growth by increasing the functionality of a mesothelioma patient’s T-cells.

Early findings from the FDA have found that Opdivo and Yervoy may help late-stage mesothelioma patients live longer.

For mesothelioma patients — all of whom have very limited options — the FDA’s approval of new treatment is welcome news. Mesothelioma is particularly difficult to treat, and having a new option will hopefully help more patients achieve long-term survival.

First New Mesothelioma Treatment Option in 16 Years

The approved combination therapy of nivolumab and ipilimumab is only the second-ever mesothelioma treatment approved by the FDA, and the first approved treatment in 16 years.

“[The] approval of nivolumab plus ipilimumab provides a new treatment that has demonstrated an improvement in overall survival for patients with malignant pleural mesothelioma. In 2004, FDA approved pemetrexed in combination with cisplatin for this indication, and now patients have an important, additional treatment option after more than a decade with only one FDA-approved drug regimen.”

– Dr. Richard Pazdur, Director of the FDA Oncology Center of Excellence

New Mesothelioma Treatment May Improve Lifespan

Results show that patients who received the nivolumab-ipilimumab combination therapy survived longer than patients who received traditional chemotherapy.

In the clinical trials leading up to the drug combo’s FDA approval, one group of adult patients with pleural mesothelioma was treated with nivolumab every two weeks and ipilimumab every six weeks. Another group received only chemotherapy.

Patients who received nivolumab and ipilimumab survived an average of 18.1 months after diagnosis. Those treated with just chemotherapy survived for only 14.1 months.

Treatment Benefits Patients With Limited Options

The combination of ipilimumab and nivolumab is also noteworthy because it is specifically approved for those with unresectable pleural mesothelioma.

In “unresectable” cases, cancerous tumors are unable to be removed by surgery — and surgeries like extrapleural pneumonectomy (EPP) and pleurectomy with decortication (P/D) are typically the best options to help patients live longer.

Most mesothelioma patients are not diagnosed until the cancer has reached its later stages, by which point it is usually unresectable.

For cases of unresectable mesothelioma, the median survival rate is very low, at roughly 9-12 months. Considering that the newly approved immunotherapy treatment can help patients live around 18 months, this is a huge milestone.

Next Steps for Mesothelioma Patients

While not a cure, this new treatment still extremely promising news for the mesothelioma community.

Each year, roughly 3,000 new cases of mesothelioma are diagnosed in the United States. Of these, between 75-80% are malignant pleural mesothelioma, so this treatment could be available to many of those affected.

If you or someone you love has been diagnosed with mesothelioma, learn more about your available treatment options by contacting our site.

We can also help you learn more about affording mesothelioma treatments. You may be entitled to financial compensation since major manufacturers used asbestos – the only known cause of mesothelioma — in industrial and consumer products for decades while knowing the risks.

Get a free mesothelioma justice guide to learn more about mesothelioma treatments and how to pay for them.

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Laura WrightWritten by:

Lead Editor

Laura Wright is a journalist and content strategist with more than 15 years of professional experience. She attended college at the University of Florida, graduating magna cum laude with a bachelor’s degree in journalism in 2008. Her writing has been featured in The Gainesville Sun and other regional publications throughout Florida.

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  1. American Cancer Society. “Survival Rates for Mesothelioma.” Retrieved on Oct. 4, 2020, from https://www.cancer.org/cancer/malignant-mesothelioma/detection-diagnosis-staging/survival-statistics.html

  2. Australian Asbestos Safety and Eradication Agency. “Countries With Asbestos Bans.” Retrieved on Oct. 4, 2020, from https://www.asbestossafety.gov.au/importing-advice/countries-asbestos-bans

  3. Bristol Myers Squibb. “Highlights of Prescribing Information: YERVOY® (ipilimumab) Injection, for Intravenous Use, Initial U.S. Approval 2011.” Retrieved on Oct. 2, 2020, from https://packageinserts.bms.com/pi/pi_yervoy.pdf

  4. Faig, Jennifer, et al. “Changing Pattern in Malignant Mesothelioma Survival.” Translational Oncology, Vol 8.1, Feb. 2015, pp. 35-39. Retrieved on Oct. 3, 2020, from https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1936523314001363

  5. Rahouma, Mohamed, et al. “Survival in Good Performance Malignant Pleural Meothelioma Patients Factors and Predictors of Response.” Asian Pacific Journal of Cancer Prevention, Vol. 18.8, 2017, pp. 2073-2078, Retrieved on Oct. 3, 2020, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5697462/

  6. U.S. Food and Drug Administration. “FDA Approves Drug Combination for Treating Mesothelioma.” Retrieved on Oct. 2, 2020, from https://www.fda.gov/news-events/press-announcements/fda-approves-drug-combination-treating-mesothelioma

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