What is immunotherapy?

Immunotherapy is a biological therapy which treats a condition by altering the body’s immune system. There are two different types of immunotherapy. Activation immunotherapy causes a reaction or an amplification of an immune response whereas suppression immunotherapy reduces or suppresses the immune system’s response.

Immunotherapy for mesothelioma

Immunotherapy for mesothelioma is an activation immunotherapy. The aim of this potentially ground-breaking advancement in treating this asbestos-related cancer is to help stimulate the immune system to attack mesothelioma cells.

There are a number of different immunotherapy treatments:

  • Monoclonal antibodies (MABs)

The blood naturally contains antibodies which help us to fight infection. MABs therapy copies the natural antibodies and makes more in the laboratory. They are then introduced to the patient’s body and attach themselves to proteins on the cancer cells, making it easier for the immune system to find and attack them.

  • Therapeutic cancer vaccines

In the same way that vaccines which protect us against general illnesses such as the flu virus, vaccines can be used to treat cancer. There is a wide range of vaccines that could help in the fight against cancer. Ultimately, they aim to stop cancer growth, destroy cancer cells left after treatment and prevent cancer from returning.

  • Adoptive T-cell transfer

This treatment changes the genes in the patient’s white blood cells, also called T-cells, through genetic engineering, to help them identify and destroy cancer cells.

These are just a few examples of immunotherapy treatments that may help in the fight against mesothelioma. Although immunotherapy has only recently started to be used in the treatment of cancers, including mesothelioma, the research has been ongoing for decades. We are now finally seeing positive results with this treatment and have successfully recovered tens of thousands in compensation to cover treatment costs as part of successful asbestos disease claims.

Benefits of immunotherapy

There are some benefits to immunotherapy over other treatments, with the main benefits being:-

  • Targeted approach

Because immunotherapy is a targeted treatment, it does not affect the healthy cells, unlike chemotherapy which affects all cells and, as a consequence, can result in some very nasty side effects. Other drugs can be used in combination with this treatment to assist in reducing the effect of side effects, such as anti-sickness drugs.

  • Fewer side effects

Thanks to the targeted approach, immunotherapy has been found to be less toxic when compared to chemotherapy, resulting in less side effects. It is thought that side effects of this new treatment may be easier control when compared to symptoms caused by highly toxic non-targeted chemotherapy treatment.

  • Improved prognosis

Although immunotherapy for mesothelioma treatment is relatively new, early signs have indicated that patients are surviving for longer compared to those who undergo other treatments.

  • Can be used alongside other treatments

Immunotherapy does not have to be used on its own and can be effective as a treatment combined with chemotherapy and/or surgery. It is more common at present for mesothelioma sufferers to undergo chemotherapy as a so called “first line” treatment, with private immunotherapy treatment being provided as a “second line” form in tackling the asbestos-related disease.

Immunotherapy success for mesothelioma

Immunotherapy does not work for everyone but there have been a number of success stories with people with mesothelioma.  

One example is Mavis Nye, a mesothelioma warrior, who was part of a Keytruda (pembrolizumab) clinical trial in the UK in 2014. She was reported to have experienced a “complete response” from the treatment and now, nine years post-diagnosis, is free from cancer.

Compensation for immunotherapy costs

Immunotherapy is not widely available for mesothelioma patients on the NHS. Many mesothelioma sufferers have enrolled and been accepted onto randomised clinical trials for immunotherapy and many have experienced great success with their treatment.

We have helped clients claim the cost of private immunotherapy treatment from offending employers, other parties and their traced insurers. This means they can access the treatment privately, without having to worry about the cost. There may be a number of cycles of immunotherapy needed and this can all be included as part of the mesothelioma claim. You can read more about a case where we have successfully claimed for immunotherapy costs here.