New Study Shows Progress in Treating Mesothelioma With Immunotherapy

December 7, 2012  |  Mesothelioma

Mesothelioma, one of the most rare and aggressive types of cancer, has long been a challenge for oncologists to treat.  Typically, the asbestos-related cancer is discovered after it has progressed to advanced stages. At this point, medical researchers have difficulty in blocking the spread of the tumor to the lungs or other internal organs. Unfortunately, the inability to effectively stop the spread of mesothelioma is what contributes to the annual average of about 2,500 lives lost in the U.S.

More and more, researchers are turning to the study of Immunotherapy to best treat mesothelioma patients. Two immunotherapy drugs are now on the market and are being used in a multimodal approach with chemotherapy and radiotherapy as the most effective way to treat the disease.

This month, a group of scientists may have discovered a key element in the immune system that may be crucial to the advancement of mesothelioma research.

The Natural Killer, or NK cell, is a part of the immune system that suppresses out-of-control cancer cells. The NK cell is proved to have an anti-tumor effect and is effective at killing individual cancer cells. The “cancer killer” cell becomes ineffective, however, once cancer cells have turned into a solid tumor.  Scientists have observed a change in the NK cell properties once a tumor has formed. Researchers are now trying to determine why the change takes place and what can be done to augment the cell so it remains effective in fighting the cancer.

A team of researchers in Italy has been able to isolate the NK cell, taken from the pleural effusions of the lung, from patients with several types of cancer including metastatic mesothelioma. After examining the cell samples, the group found that the NK cells were still functioning regularly and exhibiting their cancer killing power. The cells showed normal levels of inhibitory receptors that are responsible for suppressing the spread of mesothelioma. The team of researchers also found that when the NK cells were exposed to interleukin-2 (IL-2), a protein that helps regulate white blood cell activity, the cells took on a powerful cytolytic activity against tumor cells. The NK cells were working well.

The discovery represents a new benchmark in the field of immunotherapy as it relates to mesothelioma. The new information will help scientists find a way to use the body’s own immune system to fight various types of cancers. Researchers suggest that, since the NK cells in the pleural effusions of mesothelioma patients are not functionally damaged, there may be a way to artificially reactivate them to better fight tumor cells in mesothelioma patients.

For almost 35 years, Baron and Budd has been steadfast in its commitment to the advancement of mesothelioma care. The mesothelioma law firm has been following advancements in immunotherapy and has sought to disseminate the most up-to-date information to the mesothelioma community in addition to fighting against the asbestos companies responsible for asbestos-related diseases.

For more information on mesothelioma and the case results of Baron and Budd, visit here.

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