Immunotherapy involves manipulating the immune system to fight disease. Some types of cancer, including mesothelioma, take hold in the body in part by ‘shutting down’ the natural immunotoxins, or cell killers, that would normally attack them. Now, scientists are working with a number of molecules designed to jump start the immune system and help it recognize, target, and even ‘remember’ invading mesothelioma cancer cells.
Using a mouse model of mesothelioma, Harvard researchers investigated the roles of three factors effecting immunity: regulatory T-cells, intratumoural transforming growth factor (TGF)-â and cytotoxic T lymphocyte-associated antigen-4 (CTLA4). The researchers then treated the mesothelioma with a combination of monoclonal antibodies and a TGF-â soluble receptor, specifically designed to target these three immune system factors.
With this ‘triple treatment’, the team reports, not only did the tumors clear up long term, but the cancer-killing immune cells appeared to retain a memory of the mesothelioma tumor cells that would prepare them to ward off future invasion. The report goes on to suggest that clinical application of immunotherapies against mesothelioma “may be improved by simultaneously targeting multiple mechanisms of immune suppression”.
Another recent study of the regulatory T-cells, for example, suggests that their manipulation may be a way to improve the effectiveness of chemotherapy for mesothelioma.
I think there are already TGF trials underway in this country, so progress is being made. It does look as though this line of treatment is where there is currently greatest focus so lets hope results come through sooner rather than later.