New and innovative cancer therapies bring hope to people with mesothelioma and other malignancies. Long gone are the days when chemotherapy was the only option after surgery.

One of the new options making headlines is a type of immunotherapy called CAR T-cell therapy.

CAR T cells are genetically modified white blood cells able to fight cancer as an immune response. CAR T-cell therapy for mesothelioma is the process of removing underperforming T cells and enhancing them in cancer laboratories.

This method continues to gain traction and appeal for a variety of reasons.

 

CAR T Cells Are a ‘Targeted Therapy’

CAR T cells are a type of immunotherapy, but a different one from Opdivo, Yervoy and Keytruda. Those three drugs are immune checkpoint inhibitors, and they help the T cells without removing them from the body. They’re also not a targeted therapy, whereas CAR T cells are. CAR T cells are called “adoptive cell therapy.”

Much of oncology in 2021 and beyond is understanding the “tumor microenvironment.” This involves a biological understanding of how tumors form, grow, spread, and are constructed.

The challenge is different cancers’ tumors form, grow, spread and are built in different ways. Mesothelioma is no different, as it’s a metastatic disease where the original tumor multiplies into various smaller tumors, which continue replicating in a sheet-like manner in their growth process.

Each cancer cell has biomarkers to differentiate them from healthy cells or other kinds of cancer cells. These biomarkers could be antigens, or protein receptors. Much of tumor microenvironment analysis is looking for antigens and producing therapies to target the specific ones featured in a cancer case. This is called “targeted therapy.”

CAR T cells are modified with RNA to look for a specific antigen on the cancer cells in question. CAR, as an acronym, stands for “chimeric antigen receptor.” The CAR T cells have new receptors able to interact with the cancer antigen. They then multiply and create a much-improved immune system to fend off the specific cancer present.

The targeted nature of CAR T cells means the treatment is versatile. While other therapies, such as chemotherapy or radiation, attempt to provide a single solution to multiple cancers, CAR T cells can be varied in the lab for any type of cancer.

 

FDA-Approved for Blood Cancers

There’s proof CAR T cells work for cancer. Since 2017, the FDA approved five different CAR T-cell therapies for three blood cancers: leukemia, lymphoma and myeloma.

These three cancers had poor survival rates, similar to mesothelioma. Since the approval of the three CAR T-cell options, the remission rates have rose dramatically and patients are enjoying long-term survival like never before.

The next challenge is testing CAR T cells for solid tumors, like mesothelioma. A few trials are underway already. At Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, the CAR T cell IcasM28z led to a median survival of two years.

 

Few, if any, Serious Side Effects

This is one of the biggest benefits to consider for CAR T cells. Compared to chemotherapy and radiation, CAR T cells don’t cause nearly as many side effects.

Cytokine release syndrome can cause the most common issues. This condition is an overproduction of the chemical called cytokine in your blood. It leads to nausea, fever and chills, trouble breathing, headaches, dizziness and fatigue. While these can be uncomfortable, they’re a sign the therapy is working (CAR T cells are multiplying) and the effects are usually short-lived.

Another possibility is central nervous system issues, leading to headaches, confusion, seizures, loss of balance and trouble speaking. Other serious effects from CAR T cells include:

  • Allergic reactions during infusion of upgraded T cells
  • Low potassium or sodium in blood
  • Low blood cell counts, leading to infection, bruising, bleeding or fatigue

While these are all possibilities, the rate of serious conditions for CAR T cells is low. By contrast, chemotherapy often causes high levels of nausea and fatigue, and radiation can permanently damage healthy tissue or even organs.

    Sources & Author

Devin Goldan image

About the Writer, Devin Golden

Devin Golden is the content writer for Mesothelioma Guide. He produces mesothelioma-related content on various mediums, including the Mesothelioma Guide website and social media channels. Devin's objective is to translate complex information regarding mesothelioma into informative, easily absorbable content to help patients and their loved ones.

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    Sources & Author

Picture of Devin Golden

About the Writer, Devin Golden

Devin Golden is the content writer for Mesothelioma Guide. He produces mesothelioma-related content on various mediums, including the Mesothelioma Guide website and social media channels. Devin's objective is to translate complex information regarding mesothelioma into informative, easily absorbable content to help patients and their loved ones.