PA Hospital to Conduct Key Mesothelioma Clinical Trials

It’s been some time since there’s been a breakthrough concerning treatment for mesothelioma, so it’s especially exciting when new ideas come along and are able to be tested on the population. Such is the outlook in regards to a huge grant recently received by the University of Pennsylvania, earmarked for the development of CAR T-cell therapy for patients with mesothelioma and lung cancer.

University of PA Hospital to Conduct Important Mesothelioma Clinical TrialsSpecifically, the work that will be done at Penn’s Abramson Cancer Center revolves around a type of gene therapy that involves a laboratory modulation of the cancer patient’s T-cells. T-cells, which are a type of white blood cells, are what pushes the body’s immune system to attack cancer cells.

This specific T-cell therapy – known as chimeric antigen receptor therapy – has already been used in the treatment of certain kinds of blood- and bone marrow-related cancers with much success. So, this grant will measure whether or not the therapy can be as successful treating solid tumors such as those found in mesothelioma patients.

“CAR T cells have completely changed the way we treat leukemia, so the hope is that yes, over the next decade we can change the way we treat these tumors,” said Dr. Steven Albelda, who is the director of Lung Research, Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine at Penn and one of the principal investigators for this program.

Albelda explains that this project will encompass two clinical trials in addition to other research. One of the trials is designed to target the protein mesothelin, which is detected in most mesothelioma tumors. The second clinical trial will address the fibroblast activation protein, a part of the tumor support system. Attacking it can play a huge role in treating this aggressive cancer successfully. Another clinical trial will happen later after the results of the first two have been compiled and reviewed.

The grant that will fund all of this and more has been provided by the National Cancer Institute (NCI) and will stretch out over the next five years. Albelda notes that this particular grant is significant because the NCI rarely offers grants to those studying mesothelioma, largely because it’s a much rarer cancer than, for example, breast or lung cancer.