What Are Mesothelioma Emerging Treatments?
Emerging treatments for mesothelioma can be modified versions of existing ones or entirely new therapies altogether. New mesothelioma treatments are currently being studied in clinical trials across the country.
Examples of emerging mesothelioma treatments include:
- Gene therapy
- Vaccine therapy
Studying and testing new mesothelioma treatments is key in helping cancer patients and hopefully finding a cure.
By accessing new treatments through a clinical trial, some mesothelioma patients may be able to live longer or with less pain — even if their cancer doesn’t respond to traditional therapies.
Connect with top specialists in your area who can help you access new mesothelioma treatments with our Free Doctor Match.
List of New Mesothelioma Treatments
Mesothelioma cells may hide from the immune system and grow unchecked. Immunotherapy improves the body’s immune response so it can fight cancer.
Two immunotherapy drugs — Opdivo® (nivolumab) and Yervoy® (ipilimumab) — were approved to treat pleural mesothelioma in October 2020. Many more mesothelioma immunotherapy treatments continue to be studied.
In a 2023 study, pembrolizumab (Keytruda®) helped 21% of peritoneal mesothelioma patients achieve partial remission — meaning that the cancer tumors began to shrink. An additional 52% of patients achieved disease stability (where the cancer isn’t growing).
Emerging mesothelioma immunotherapies include:
- CAR T-cell therapy: This programs T-cells (which the immune system creates to kill infections and cancer) to recognize and attack mesothelioma cells that have hidden from the immune system.
- Checkpoint inhibitors: These block immune checkpoint proteins, which stop the immune system from attacking cancer cells. One such drug is pembrolizumab. Lab-made cytokines: This encourages cancer cells to produce chemicals that attract immune system cells.
- Vaccines: A vaccine tells a patient’s immune system to create antibodies to fight cancer. In a study from the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine, most patients lived for 2 years or more when a dendritic cell vaccine was combined with chemotherapy to treat pleural mesothelioma.
Tumor Treating Fields (TTF)
Tumor treating fields (TTFields) use electric pads to disrupt mesothelioma cells’ ability to divide. The electric pads attach to the patient’s chest, but are harmless.
This new cancer treatment was recently approved for mainstream use in helping malignant pleural mesothelioma patients after showing success in clinical trials.
Mesothelioma doctors continue to study how TTFields can be combined with other treatment options, such as chemotherapy, to help patients.
“We want to investigate the mechanisms by which TTFields really work in mesothelioma and how this mechanism can be applied in the most rational way to combine drugs with TTFields.”
— Dr. Maurizio D’Incalci, Mesothelioma Researcher
Through this new mesothelioma treatment, doctors first administer a light-sensitive drug that gets absorbed into cancer cells. Then, a special light is applied and the drug activates, killing the cancer tumors. A range of lights can trigger the drug, including lasers and LEDs.
While photodynamic therapy can cause side effects like light sensitivity, nausea, and vomiting, they are often less serious than those of chemotherapy or radiation, according to a 2023 report from Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center.
Targeted mesothelioma therapies attack proteins that instruct cancer cells how to grow, divide, and spread.
The two main targeted therapies for mesothelioma are:
- Monoclonal antibody therapy: These are proteins created in a lab that attach to certain targets found on cancer cells. Some mark cancer cells so the immune system can find them. Others directly stop cancer cells from growing or cause them to destroy themselves. They can also carry toxins to cancer cells to kill them.
- Small-molecule drugs: These medications are small enough to easily enter mesothelioma cells. Once they are inside the cells, they can cause cancer cells to die.
Virotherapy is a new mesothelioma treatment in which a virus that has been modified in a lab is used to locate and destroy cancer cells without hurting healthy cells.
There are three main types of mesothelioma virotherapy:
- Anti-cancer oncolytic viruses: Viruses infect and kill cancer cells.
- Viral immunotherapy: This uses viruses to stimulate the body’s immune system.
- Viral vectors: This uses modified viruses to introduce specific DNA sequences into cells. This process can kill or slow the growth of cancer cells. The virus also triggers the immune system to attack the tumor.
Virotherapy is also known as virus therapy, and is a subtype of targeted therapy.
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Cryotherapy uses freezing temperatures to kill mesothelioma tumors and cells. It is also known as cryosurgery or cryoablation.
According to a recent study from the Journal of Vascular and Interventional Radiology, cryoablation is safe for local control of recurrent pleural mesothelioma (cancer that’s come back after treatment) and shows promising results. 3 years after undergoing cryotherapy, nearly 74% of patients were still free of cancer.
Gene therapy for mesothelioma allows doctors to put genes into cancer cells so they can be more easily killed.
For example, some people are at a higher risk of mesothelioma if they have mutations in the BAP1 gene. However, a 2023 study from the University of Hawaiʻi Cancer Center found that these mutations also make mesothelioma tumors easier to destroy. By targeting the BAP1 mutations, the study authors are hopeful that patients can live longer.
Transferring “suicide genes” into mesothelioma cells could also help. Chemotherapy activates the transferred genes, leading to mesothelioma cell death.
Pressurized Intraperitoneal Aerosol Chemotherapy (PIPAC)
Pressurized intraperitoneal aerosol chemotherapy (PIPAC) delivers chemotherapy into the abdomen as a gas form. It’s used to treat peritoneal mesothelioma.
A 2019 study found that this treatment of mesothelioma delivers good outcomes by allowing the chemotherapy to be distributed deeper and further into the body. One peritoneal mesothelioma patient even achieved full remission in the study. Health care providers currently use PIPAC for palliative treatments in selected clinical trials.
Chemotherapy medications like cisplatin and pemetrexed are often effective in treating mesothelioma. However, cancer cells can become resistant to chemotherapy.
Fortunately, scientists have discovered a “chemotherapy glue” that may stop cancer cells from being resistant. This “glue” is a protein called fibrin. Fibrin can limit cancer’s ability to adapt to damage done by traditional chemotherapy drugs and allow doctors to deliver more potent doses.
In a study from the Journal of Thoracic and Cardiovascular Surgery, late-stage pleural mesothelioma patients treated with lung-sparing surgery and cisplatin dosed with fibrin lived for 21 months on average.
Wondering if new mesothelioma therapies like chemotherapy glue are right for your treatment plan? Download our Free Questions to Ask Your Doctor Checklist to get the answers you need when meeting with a specialist.
New Mesothelioma Treatments and Multimodal Therapy
Multimodal therapy allows doctors to combine multiple treatments to help patients. As emerging mesothelioma treatments develop, some may be combined with others for better results.
Examples of new multimodal mesothelioma treatments include:
- Hyperthermic intrathoracic chemotherapy (HITHOC): This treatment allows doctors to deliver chemotherapy drugs directly into the chest cavity during pleurectomy and decortication (P/D) surgery, which involves removing the lining of the lung (pleura). The chemotherapy drugs travel through the chest cavity to kill remaining cancer cells.
- Surgery for mesothelioma after radiation therapy (SMART): This involves using radiation to shrink cancer tumors before removing them surgically. According to a 2021 study published in the journal Communications Biology, pleural mesothelioma patients lived for 36 months on average with this treatment — a major improvement to their life expectancy.
- TTFields: Those getting treated using TTFields must also receive chemotherapy as initial results from clinical trials showed this combination could help patients live longer.
How Can I Access New Treatments for Mesothelioma?
Ongoing clinical trials are the main way that researchers develop new mesothelioma treatments.
Mesothelioma clinical trials allow medical experts to:
- Develop new therapies and drugs: Researchers can study how new mesothelioma treatments halt the growth of cancer cells, shrink tumors, and boost patients’ overall health.
- Improve diagnostic tools: Research and clinical trials can also provide a better understanding of the genes, biomarkers, and proteins associated with mesothelioma. As a result, doctors can develop new diagnostic tools for spotting mesothelioma faster and earlier.
- Test multimodal therapies: Research and clinical trials also let researchers and doctors compare new multimodal therapies to well-accepted, standard treatments.
Interested in joining a mesothelioma clinical trial? We have relationships with top doctors and can help you find clinical trials that you can join. Call (866) 608-8933 to get started.
How Are Emerging Mesothelioma Treatments Approved?
New mesothelioma treatments must be approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in order to be used outside of a clinical trial.
The amount of time it takes for a mesothelioma treatment to get FDA approval varies and depends on several factors, including the complexity of the treatment and the results of clinical trials.
Here’s a breakdown of the FDA’s approval process:
- Discovery and development: Research for a new mesothelioma treatment begins in the lab.
- Preclinical research: Researchers perform lab and animal testing to answer basic safety questions.
- Clinical research: Researchers test the treatments on people to ensure safety and effectiveness.
- FDA review: FDA review teams thoroughly examine all of the submitted data about the new mesothelioma treatment and decide whether to approve it.
Generally speaking, most new mesothelioma treatments have required several years (or longer) to obtain FDA approval. For example, TTFields were the first pleural mesothelioma treatment to be FDA approved in over 15 years.
Get Help Accessing New Mesothelioma Treatments
New mesothelioma treatments are helping more cancer patients live longer than expected. Depending on your situation, you may qualify for some of these breakthrough treatments. Even better, Mesothelioma Hope may be able to help you access them.
For over 20 years, our team has connected mesothelioma patients to the latest mesothelioma treatments, top doctors, and financial aid. We’ll do anything we can to assist you and your family during this trying time.
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FAQs for New Mesothelioma Treatments
What is the latest treatment for mesothelioma?
There are many new treatments for mesothelioma currently being studied. These treatments — including gene therapy, virus therapy, photodynamic therapy, and more — may help patients live longer or with less pain.
By continuing to study new treatments, researchers may be able to one day cure mesothelioma and other cancers.
How do new mesothelioma treatments affect survival rate?
How new treatments affect mesothelioma survival rates and life expectancies varies depending on the treatment, cancer type, and the patient’s overall health.
In general, the overall goals of all new mesothelioma treatments are to extend the life of mesothelioma patients, make them more comfortable, and improve their quality of life.
To get a clear idea of whether a new mesothelioma treatment may help you live longer, talk to your health care team.
What is the newest treatment for pleural malignant mesothelioma?
Some of the newest treatments for pleural mesothelioma include TTFields (which use harmless electrical pads to shrink tumors) and a combination of immunotherapy drugs (which train the immune system to fight cancer).
Both of these treatments were approved by the FDA within the last few years. More new pleural mesothelioma treatments may be approved as well, depending on the results of upcoming clinical trials.
What is the most effective treatment for mesothelioma?
The most effective and best treatments for mesothelioma depends on the type of cancer the patient has, their overall health, and the stage of their cancer.
Most doctors will use chemotherapy along with radiation therapy or surgery to treat mesothelioma. If traditional therapies don’t give you the results you want, your doctor can look into suitable emerging mesothelioma treatments.