Dr. Lee Krug of Memorial Sloan-Kettering announced the opening of a new clinical trial today for patients with advanced mesothelioma. The announcement was made via Twitter apparently for those in the medical community. The tweet is obscure and garbled with acronyms and medical lingo, but what does it mean?
— Dr. Lee Krug (@KrugMD) October 1, 2014
This clinical trial consists of two forms of treatment announced by Dr. Krug.
- “PI3K/mTOR inhib” – Dr. Krug is referring to the primary drug being studied in this trial. The drug is a PI3K/mTOR inhibitor. This is still confusing unless you have a degree-level knowledge of biology, but the important thing to know is that this drug stops two proteins essential to tumor growth and mesothelioma cell proliferation from doing their job. The actual drug has an equally perplexing name, LY3023414.
- “pem/cis” – This part of Dr. Krug’s tweet is referring to the standard chemotherapy treatment that most mesothelioma patients receive. The drugs are known as pemetrexed and cisplatin. Most people know pemetrexed by it’s brand name, Alimta. This chemotherapy combination became the first FDA-approved chemo for mesothelioma back in 2004.
Why Is This Beneficial for Advanced Stage Patients?
Patients with advanced mesothelioma have few options when it comes to treatment. In the later stages of mesothelioma, aggressive treatments like surgery aren’t typically an option any more. Doctors treating these patients aim to prevent metastasis rather than eliminating the cancer.
Metastasis, the spread of cancer to other parts of the body, makes radical treatments for mesothelioma ineffective in most cases. However, stopping metastasis may allow patients to live longer by managing their disease.
Patients in the study involving the PI3K inhibitor are those who aren’t responding to standard treatments any longer. Although the name of the drug, LY3023414, doesn’t say much about what it does, it could turn out to help patients not responding to therapy by inhibiting signaling between mesothelioma cells.
Clinical Trials for Mesothelioma
Every mesothelioma patient should put clinical trials in their list of treatment considerations. The rarity of mesothelioma makes it one of the only ways for patients to expand their treatment options or receive a specialized treatment regimen for their specific diagnosis. It’s a matter of probability—patients who overlook clinical trials are missing out the majority of current treatments available for mesothelioma.
“Participating in a clinical trial for mesothelioma gives a patient a chance to participate at the cutting edge of medicine and gain access to novel therapies, new chemical weapons, and advanced techniques not yet available to everyone.” – Meso Foundation
There is no question that clinical trials are the only way to advance treatment for mesothelioma. Some patients, however, may be reticent to participate. These patients should realize that clinical trials, including the one announced by Dr. Krug, still encompass standard treatments for mesothelioma.
Patients Have to Take the Lead in Suggesting Trials
Research has shown that most Americans would participate in clinical trials. That is, if their doctor suggests they should participate. Unfortunately, most doctors don’t suggest clinical trials for their patients. Some surveys have recorded that less than ¼ of doctors recommend or even talk about clinical trials with their patients.
What this means is that mesothelioma patients who want to take control of their prognosis need to spend some time educating themselves about clinical trials. This includes seeing what trials are out there, knowing the risks and benefits involved and bringing it up to their specialist.
Trials like the one that just opened at Sloan-Kettering are the future of mesothelioma treatment, but first they must have participants. Current patients should keep these opportunities in mind because these are the treatments that may become standard therapy in the future. After all, Alimta, the benchmark for treatment, was once a clinical trial.