A phase 1 clinical trial testing a drug called Avelumab recently released its positive results in pleural and peritoneal mesothelioma patients. These patients all had unresectable mesothelioma and had previously been treated with chemotherapy but progressed afterward.
Most patients experienced some mild side effects such as chills, fatigue, fever, and infusion-related reactions. However, severe side effects only occurred in 4 out of 53 of the mesothelioma patients.
Avelumab Assisting The Immune System
Avelumab is an immunotherapy treatment. Every day each person’s immune system works around the clock to protect their health. Often, cancer cells are able to trick the immune system into thinking they are safe. One of these tricks is a protein called PD-L1.
PD-L1 is a protein that suppresses the immune system. It is often found covering tumor cells which protects them from being attacked by t-cells, a type of white blood cell that works as part of the immune system. Avelumab inhibits PD-L1 interactions, allowing the immune system to recognize the threat of the tumor and react to it.
Avelumab may also be able to help another type of white blood cells called natural killer (NK) cells find and attack the cancer cells. NK cells kill cancer cells through something called antibody-dependent cell-mediated cytotoxicity (ADCC).
Two Companies Teaming Up To Innovate
Two major pharmaceutical companies, Merck and Pfizer, teamed up to develop Avelumab. These companies designed a program called JAVELIN to test Avelumab for treating different types of tumors. There are several different clinical trials in the program.
The JAVELIN clinical trial that is testing avelumab on mesothelioma also includes several other types of cancers. This trial is testing Avelumab on solid tumors and is titled “Avelumab in Metastatic or Locally Advanced Solid Tumors.”
Over 1,600 patients from all over the world have participated in this trial. 53 of those are patients with unresectable pleural or peritoneal mesothelioma.