Immunotherapy drugs are commonplace in mesothelioma clinical trials. However, in many cases, these drugs can’t fight cancer alone.
A new Phase 2 pleural mesothelioma clinical trial is giving immunotherapy some help.
Researchers from multiple cancer centers are pairing Nivolumab and Ramucirumab. Nivolumab, commonly known by the brand name Opdivo, is a PD-1 checkpoint immunotherapy treatment. Ramucirumab is an anti-VEGF drug that stops tumor growth. VEGF stands for vascular endothelial growth factor.
Dr. Arkadiusz Dudek, an oncologist at HealthPartners Institute Regions Cancer Center, is a lead investigator for the trial. He talked about the study in a press release published on the Hoosier Cancer Research Network website.
“There is a lot of interest right now in introducing immunotherapy to mesothelioma and there are several trials that are currently ongoing in the United States and other parts of the world,” Dr. Dudek said. “However, what is unique about this study that has not been done yet is to combine immunotherapy with antiangiogenic therapy.”
The study needs 35 pleural mesothelioma patients for Phase 2. Locations still recruiting patients as of Sept. 10, 2019, are:
- Moffitt Cancer Center in Tampa, Florida
- The University of Maryland in Baltimore
- Karmanos Cancer Center in Detroit, Michigan
- HealthPartners Institute Regions Cancer Care Center in Minneapolis, Minnesota
How the Clinical Trial Works
All living organisms need oxygen to live. Your body’s cells are no exception — even the cancerous ones.
Mesothelioma tumors’ need for oxygen and blood results in angiogenesis, a biological phenomenon described as the creation of new blood vessels. These new blood vessels feed the tumors, which grow and invade nearby tissue and organs.
Healthy tissue cells are then deprived of their necessary oxygen and can die. This phenomenon, called hypoxia, is part of why diseases like mesothelioma are so harmful to the body.
How Ramucirumab Fights Mesothelioma
Ramucirumab specifically targets the cancers’ growth. As an anti-VEGF drug, it blocks the creation of new blood vessels. Thus, the diseased cells cannot receive the oxygen, blood and nutrients it needs to expand.
Not only are healthy cells not infringed upon to absorb their needed oxygen levels, but the tumors are weaker and basically suffocating. So the hypoxia occurs for the mesothelioma instead of the healthy tissue.
Nivolumab then steps in for the second part of the treatment equation.
How Nivolumab Fights Mesothelioma
Mesothelioma includes the protein PD-L1, which can interact with the PD-1 protein on T-cells. These cells are the immune system’s best defense mechanism against diseases such as mesothelioma. When the PD-L1 and PD-1 proteins interact, T-cells ignore mesothelioma tumors.
Nivolumab is a PD-1 checkpoint drug often used in mesothelioma clinical trials. It blocks the interaction between the two proteins. By doing so, T-cells are on the attack against the tumors. Thanks to ramucirumab’s ability to slow or stop their growth, the tumors are weak and more easily killed by an alert and effective immune system.
The scientists running the clinical trial are looking for mesothelioma patients meeting specific qualifications. If you’re a mesothelioma patient, then you might be eligible to participate.
Our patient advocate and registered nurse, Jenna Campagna, can help you enroll in this study or find one that best fits your specific disease and circumstances. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information on clinical trials.