Immunotherapy is a relatively new treatment for mesothelioma and is currently not available on the NHS for the asbestos-related cancer. Patients with mesothelioma in the UK are only able to access immunotherapy treatment through clinical trials or by paying on a private treatment basis.
It is becoming more and more common for us to be able to secure funding for private immunotherapy as part of a mesothelioma compensation claim. In these cases, we are able to settle the claim and pay damages to our clients, leaving the door open for future treatment costs, if they are eligible for immunotherapy.
Chemotherapy is standard first line treatment
Although there is no cure for mesothelioma, treatment is offered to help manage symptoms, improve quality of life and extend survival. Currently in the UK, the standard first-line treatment for mesothelioma, be it pleural or peritoneal, is chemotherapy. Many patients will opt to have chemotherapy along with surgery. The aim of the treatment is to reduce the tumour mass and in turn, reduce symptoms and cancer spread.
Mesothelioma cancer cell types
Mesothelioma affects the linings of the body’s organs and is most commonly found in the lungs or abdomen. There are three cancer cell types that mesothelioma is identified by, epithelioid, sarcomatoid and biphasic.
This is the most common cell type for mesothelioma. Epithelioid mesothelioma is a clearly defined clump of cells, this makes it easier to identify and remove during surgery and patients with this type of cancer have the best prognosis.
This is the rarest cell type and due to it’s overlapping, irregular cell shape it is quick to metastasize and spread. Patients with sarcomatoid cancer tend to have a poor prognosis.
This is a combination of the other two cell types and the prognosis depends on which cell type is most prevalent.
Different first line treatment for different cell types?
A recent study has looked at the different mesothelioma cell types and suggests that those with sarcomatoid mesothelioma may have a better prognosis if they receive immunotherapy as a first-line treatment, rather than chemotherapy.
The study suggests that immunotherapy works best when patients produce more white blood cells and that avoiding chemotherapy prior to treatment may help with this.
The majority of previous immunotherapy studies have looked at the treatment in conjunction with others so the true effectiveness of immunotherapy for mesothelioma may not yet been known.
The study, conducted by researchers at The University of Melbourne, analysed 22 mesothelioma patients, six of whom have sarcomatoid mesothelioma. They found that these patients had the best response to an immune checkpoint inhibitor (ICI). They also found that the sarcomatoid patients who had first-line immunotherapy had an overall survival of more than 28 months, compared to just 11 months for patients with epithelioid mesothelioma.
Further research is needed
This is very promising research and lead author, Dr Brockwell, believes further study is warranted; “These data support the expansion of trials utilising single and combination ICIs as first-line therapy in sarcomatoid malignant pleural mesothelioma and warrants further studies testing the impact or detriment of chemotherapy pre-ICI.”
If you require assistance in pursuing an asbestos compensation claim for mesothelioma or other asbestos disease then please contact us today on our freephone number 0800 038 6767. Alternatively, head over to the ‘Contact Us’ page, complete the form and we will be in touch.
Bockwell, N, et al, “Preliminary study highlights the potential of immune checkpoint inhibitors in sarcomatoid mesothelioma”, June 2020, Translational Lung Cancer Research, pp. 639 – 645, http://tlcr.amegroups.com/article/view/40585/html