Malignant pleural mesothelioma (MPM) is like a time bomb inside some people’s lungs. Exposed to asbestos years ago through factory work, recreation, military service or even secondhand exposure, victims have no idea that the disease will eventually deprive them of what could be the best years of their lives – until they get sick.
Treatments for MPM have generally been focused on either symptom management or aggressive chemotherapy, but neither has had much success. The five-year survival rate for MPM, at lower than 10%, is distressingly low. That makes any progress with new treatments, no matter how tenuous, pretty exciting.
A drug called ADI-PEG20 could be a game-changer
According to the ATOMIC-Meso clinical trial created by Queen Mary’s Barts Cancer Institute in partnership with Polaris Pharmaceuticals, ADI-PEG20 approaches MPM in a new way by attacking the cancer’s supply of an amino acid called arginine. This exploits the metabolism of the cancer cells and “starves” them, making it difficult for them to multiply.
In combo with the standard chemotherapy drugs used for MPM, cisplatin and pemetrexed, ADI-PEG20 increased the average survival rate of a subgroup of the MPM patients by two months – and patients in another subgroup have now survived three years. The drug is expected to quickly be approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), which will make it the first new chemo med to hit the market for this condition in 15 years.
It’s important to remember that progress against this disease is still inching forward and that there is hope for a cure. The more scientists begin to unravel the mysteries of the way cancer cells operate, the more insight they have into future treatments.
Unfortunately, even this good news doesn’t alleviate the concerns of current mesothelioma patients and their families. If you have mesothelioma or your loved one has recently been diagnosed, find out more about the compensation that has been set aside for those affected by asbestos exposure.