Earlier this week, we published the first part of our annual article with the top stories of 2021 for mesothelioma and asbestos.
The year was so busy we had to split the biggest news of 2021 into two parts. Here is the second part of the year-end review, rounding out the biggest 10 stories affecting the mesothelioma community.
Lastly, here’s to hoping 2022 is just as productive, with more FDA approvals to grant patients more access to effective therapies.
Immunotherapy Trials a Focus for Peritoneal Mesothelioma
Immunotherapy is proven to help treat pleural mesothelioma. The next question is whether it works for peritoneal mesothelioma, which is in the lining of the abdominal cavity.
Multiple trials are opening to test immune checkpoint inhibitors for this type of asbestos cancer. Many doctors support the advance of these clinical trials in hopes of an FDA approval, or at least more access for patients who can’t have surgery.
Number of Female Mesothelioma Cases on the Rise
While the total number of mesothelioma cases is stagnant, if not dropping slightly, there’s a concern for one gender in particular.
More females are being diagnosed with mesothelioma. This is due to talc cosmetics, secondhand exposure and old household appliances made with asbestos.
From 1991-1999, only 11% of cases were women. In the last decade, the percentage is up to 20.5%. The average age is also higher: up from 65 years old to 75 years old.
Attempt to Ban Asbestos Remains Stalled
At the end of 2020, the House of Representatives had a bill on the agenda to ban asbestos in the United States. It never made it to the House floor due to 11th-hour issues with the proposed law.
The bill hasn’t made it back to Congress in 2021.
Early in the year, Linda Reinstein, the CEO and co-founder of the Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization, said the Alan Reinstein Ban Asbestos Now Act is “alive and well.” Hopefully in 2022, it shows signs of a heartbeat. The country would benefit from a ban, and the ADAO and Reinstein are doing the necessary work to advocate for this law.
FDA Gives ONCOS-102 Therapy ‘Fast-Track’ Designation
The FDA gave ONCOS-102 a designation for malignant pleural mesothelioma which can make reviews of clinical data more streamlined. ONCOS-102 finished its early trial at 25 months median survival, which is around a year better than using only chemotherapy.
ONCOS-102 for mesothelioma is an oncolytic virus transferred by a viral vector. The virus causes mesothelioma cells to break apart and die, which releases protein antigens to ignite an immune T-cell response.
The hope with the fast-track label is that ONCOS-102 moves through the review process quickly, possibly becoming approved in 2022.
SMARTEST Protocol in Works for Mesothelioma
SMART is the treatment protocol designed at Princess Margaret Cancer Centre and Michigan Medicine. It uses “surgery for mesothelioma after radiation therapy” (SMART).
SMARTER specifically uses pleurectomy/decortication surgery, which leaves the lungs intact. It’s preferred to a pneumonectomy, which takes out one lung.
SMARTEST is a concept to pair SMART with immunotherapy. Doctors confirmed early in 2021 that SMARTER is in the works. It’s still in the brainstorming process but may go to clinical examination sooner than later.
“We have more evidence that immunotherapy and radiation together may have a synergistic effect,” said Dr. Charles Simone, the New York Proton Center’s chief medical officer.