A new clinical trial that combines gene therapy and virotherapy may soon offer pleural mesothelioma patients an alternative to status-quo chemotherapy or radiation treatment.

Trizell Ltd, a specialist gene therapy company, is testing the effectiveness of TR002 on pleural mesothelioma patients. The company reported it is moving the clinical trial into Phase 3 of testing after promising results in earlier stages.

Dr. Daniel Sterman, one of the creators of TR002, called this “an exciting trial.” Sterman, the director of the Multidisciplinary Pulmonary Oncology Program at New York University, is a proponent of gene therapy as a treatment option for pleural mesothelioma patients.

“The results that we noted in our previous study showed significant prolongation of life expectancy and particularly so for about 25% of these refractory patients who have gone on to live two and in some cases three years and more,” Sterman added. “We will work hard to get this potentially groundbreaking clinical trial completed.”


How TR002 Combats Pleural Mesothelioma

TR002 is an adenovirus-mediated interferon alfa-2B, which involves a non-active virus transporting a cancer-fighting gene into the body. The investigational drug is administered by catheter into the pleural cavity, where it then breaks down and leaves only the active gene (interferon alfa-2B). Interacting with the gene causes the cells to produce the interferon alfa-2b protein, which the body naturally produces to fight off cancer. By injecting the gene into the pleura, TR002 causes the cells to increase their productivity of the protein and more effectively control the tumor.

Gemcitabine chemotherapy follows the administering of TR002. Medical experts use this chemotherapy drug to treat lung cancer and other types of cancer.

Pleural mesothelioma, a rare cancer that kills around 3,000 Americans each year, is similar to lung cancer based solely on the proximity of the tumor. Pleural mesothelioma forms in the chest cavity, the space separating the lung and chest wall. Inhaling or ingesting asbestos fibers is the only known cause of pleural mesothelioma. When asbestos fibers enter a person’s body, they can irritate the cells along the pleura, a sheet-like lining on either side of the chest cavity. When these cells are irritated, they can mutate and become cancerous.

There are currently few widely used treatment options for pleural mesothelioma patients, many of who do not live longer than two years after their diagnosis date. However, TR002 has effectively managed the tumors of many people involved so far in Trizell’s study.


Test Results From Phase 2 of TR002 Trial

Phase 2, which occurred at the University of Pennsylvania’s Abramson Cancer Center, included 40 pleural mesothelioma patients whom were either newly diagnosed or for whom standard chemotherapy was ineffective. According to Trizell, the control rate of their cancer during Phase 2 was 87.5%, a promising amount compared to the usual prognosis of pleural mesothelioma.

The company also reported that the survival time for patients in the study nearly doubled compared to those given standard cancer treatment. Experts will expand the trial in Phase 3 to include testing sites in the United States, Europe, Australia and Russia.

Along with Sterman, Dr. Evan Alley and Dr. Steven Albelda helped create and implement the TR002 clinical trial. Alley is currently at the Cleveland Clinic Florida but worked at the University of Pennsylvania during the early stages of the trial. Albelda is a professor at the University of Pennsylvania’s Perelman School of Medicine. Some of the doctors involved in the trial are included in Mesothelioma Guide’s doctor match program, which helps mesothelioma patients find an expert for treatment, surgery and more.

Many tests are examining the effectiveness of gene therapy and other experimental approaches for treating mesothelioma. If you want to participate in a clinical trial, email our registered nurse advocate, Karen Ritter, at karen@mesotheliomaguide.com, or visit the Mesothelioma Guide clinical trial database.

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About the Writer, Devin Golden

Devin Golden is a 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.