In a multicenter clinical trial, the positive effect of the novel MesoPher vaccine is observed. With this vaccine, the patient's immune system will be able to recognize and fight the mesothelioma tumor cells. Thus, it will halt the tumor from coming back after initial chemotherapy. By boosting the efficiency of chemotherapy and sustaining cancer from spreading, this strategy may increase the survival time of the pleural mesothelioma patients as well.
A Netherland based company; Amphera is developing this new treatment. Amphera shared the news of these clinical trials in a press release on March 18th, 2019.
Doctors from different European Institutes including Cancer Institute, Amsterdam, Netherlands, Clinical Oncology, Università Politecnica Delle Marche, Ospedali Riuniti di Ancona, Ancona, Italy, Cancer Research UK Centre, University of Leicester, United Kingdom, Department of Thoracic Oncology, University Hospital Antwerp, Belgium and Centre Hospitalier Régional Universitaire de Lille, France) conducted these trials on a total of 235 patients.
In this treatment, the vaccine is prepared using mesothelioma tumor cells along with the patient's dendritic cells. The aim is to boost the patient's immune system. This strategy is called dendritic cell immunotherapy.
Translational Lung Cancer Research journal published the initial data of the clinical trials in June 2019.
Researchers expressed the positive impact of the study, saying,
"DC (Dendritic Cell) therapy could be a new treatment option. Preclinical data regarding DC therapy in mesothelioma mouse models are encouraging and clinical data from a phase I/II dose evaluation study with MesoPher have indicated its safety and feasibility in MPM (Malignant Pleural Mesothelioma) patients."
The company released the next statement on April 4th, 2019. In this, they shared the positive results of the initial data of the research saying,
"New data suggests a high level of disease control possible with combination of dendritic cell therapy and PD-1/PD-L1 checkpoint inhibitors."
The need for New Mesothelioma Treatments
Mesothelioma is a rare cancer. However, the number of mesothelioma patients is increasing with each passing day. And there is only a single FDA approved treatment of malignant pleural mesothelioma (MPM). The MPM patients receive a "standard of care" treatment, which includes a combination of Alimta and cisplatin.
This chemotherapeutic approach is not efficient enough to increase the survival time of the patients after the diagnosis. So, there is an urgent need for the development and approval of new treatments.
The COO of Amphera company Ilona Enninga said,
"The number of pleural mesothelioma patients is on the rise, and to date, there is only one therapy registered with limited clinical benefit. As such, new approaches to treating mesothelioma are much needed to improve the prognosis for these patients."
Undoubtedly, this study can prove significant in treating malignant pleural mesothelioma, and stopping it's spread. As in the first press release published this year, Rob Meijer, CEO of Amphera said,
"For Amphera the start of the study is a major milestone in our strategy to bring our dendritic cell therapy to patients."
Following Vaccination after Chemotherapeutic Treatment
This study is designed to check the efficacy of personalized dendritic cell immunotherapy as the maintenance treatment after the standard chemotherapy.
In Arm A, mesothelioma patients received three biweekly MesoPher injections along with supportive care after standard chemotherapy. Later, patients received two more vaccine injections on the 18th and 30th week.
In Arm B, mesothelioma patients only received supportive care and no vaccination. The primary objective of this study was to increase the progression-free survival of mesothelioma patients.
The results of dendritic cell immunotherapy were presented at the ACCR annual meeting.
Meijer is immensely hopeful regarding the prospective benefits of this new treatment. He said,
"It is our belief that Amphera's unique approach to dendritic cell therapy that can turn ‘cold' tumors with the immune-suppressing environment into ‘hot' tumors infiltrated with cytotoxic T-cells, makes MesoPher an ideal component of combination treatment with checkpoint inhibitors in mesothelioma."
How will MesoPher treatment Work?
This treatment starts by taking the blood samples of pleural mesothelioma patients. The dendritic cells are present in the white blood cells of the blood. White blood cells are extracted through a process called leukapheresis. After removing the immature dendritic cells, the researchers engineer these cells to help in boosting the patient's immune system after injecting back in the body. These dendritic cells are fully prepared to support the immune system in identifying and attacking the tumor cells.
Significance of Dendritic Cell Therapy
A properly functioning immune system has efficiently working NK-cells, B- cells, and T-cells. However, like any other tumor, malignant pleural mesothelioma cells weaken the immune system. Thus, the number of dendritic cells and activated T cells are deficient in mesothelioma patients. Due to a weak immune system, the tumor does not remain contained after chemotherapy and return.
Moreover, this is why the immune checkpoint inhibitor therapies, including PD-1 AND PD-L1 therapies, remain ineffective. This MesoPher vaccination treatment may help solve this issue. The strengthened form of dendritic cells injected as MesoPher can enhance the functioning of T-cells, B cells, and NK cells. It is thus helping to attack the tumor cells effectively. Moreover, this strategy can assist other immunotherapies as well.
According to Enninga,
"In a phase I/II study MesoPher demonstrated to be safe and clinically active in a stand-alone setting. The latest data shows the potential additional therapeutic benefit when MesoPher is followed by treatment with checkpoint inhibitors, with promising survival rates and excellent safety."