In 2020, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved two immunotherapy drugs, Opdivo (nivolumab) and Yervoy (ipilimumab), for the treatment of unresectable malignant pleural mesothelioma. Since then, immunotherapy has become a first-line treatment approach for mesothelioma.
A recent study has assessed the impact of immunotherapy on mesothelioma patients and their survival.
The study identified 20,069 cases of pleural mesothelioma recorded in the National Cancer Database from 2004 to 2012 along with 17,015 cases between 2013 and 2019. These numbers average out to less than 3,000 cases each year.
Mesothelioma Immunotherapy Study Results
The median overall survival between 2004 and 2012 was 9.49 months, and the 5-year survival rate was 8.4%. Those numbers improved from 2013 to 2019: an overall survival of 11.79 months and a 5-year survival rate of 13.5%. This improvement was largely due to the increased use of immunotherapy among patients.
According to the study, people who received mesothelioma immunotherapy had a median overall survival of 17.28 months, and the treatment was responsible for an average survival improvement of 5-7 months compared to people who did not receive immunotherapy.
According to the results of the study, the number of patients receiving immunotherapy increased every year, with 12 patients receiving immunotherapy in 2004 and 491 patients in 2019.
The study also evaluated the different mesothelioma cell types and their response to immunotherapy. According to the results, immunotherapy improved the median overall survival for all three (epithelioid, biphasic and sarcomatoid) mesothelioma cell types.
Epithelioid mesothelioma patients had an overall survival of 15.04 months without immunotherapy compared to 20.63 months with immunotherapy.
Sarcomatoid mesothelioma patients had an overall survival of 4.4 months without immunotherapy compared to 11.4 months with immunotherapy.
Researchers determined that “immunotherapy has revolutionized the treatment of patients with MPM (malignant pleural mesothelioma).”
Importance of Immunotherapy for Mesothelioma
Although immunotherapy is a relatively new treatment approach for mesothelioma, the success rates speak for themselves. Immunotherapy is associated with impressive efficacy and limited severe side effects compared to the original cancer treatment approach: chemotherapy.
When cancer cells invade the body, they can often disguise themselves and bypass the immune system, allowing tumors to continue to spread and negatively affect the body. Cancer cells can bypass the immune system because they come from natural body cells and the immune system does not identify them as foreign invaders like a virus or bacteria.
Immunotherapy enhances the immune system’s response to cancer and other harmful cells by showing that cancer cells are dangerous and should be eliminated. Chemotherapy, on the other hand, kills cancer cells but can also damage or kill healthy cells, resulting in severe side effects from treatment.
Since immunotherapy works with the immune system – not against it – patients often respond well and do not experience extreme adverse effects. Due to the positive response to immunotherapy drugs, many doctors have shifted their preference to immunotherapy as the standard cancer treatment instead of chemotherapy.
“When patients are trying to decide what drug to use, they should use the one with less side effects,” said Dr. Raja Flores, the director of thoracic surgical oncology at Mount Sinai Medical Center and a top mesothelioma specialist. “The way I look at it, that’s usually going to be immunotherapy.”
The most common immunotherapy drugs doctors recommend are Opdivo and Yervoy, which are approved by the FDA to be used together as a combination.
To find out more about immunotherapy and other treatment options for mesothelioma, contact our patient advocate and registered nurse, Karen Ritter. She can answer your medical questions and connect you with mesothelioma specialists who have the knowledge and experience needed to treat your cancer.
Sources & Author
Overall Survival for Patients With MPM Since Inclusion of Immunotherapy in Treatment Guidelines. DocWireNews. Retrieved from: https://www.docwirenews.com/post/overall-survival-for-patients-with-mpm-since-inclusion-of-immunotherapy-in-treatment-guidelines. Accessed: 12/18/2023.
Sources & Author