As the quest for better faster mesothelioma treatment continues, no facet of the illness is left unexplored. Yet sometimes instead of going deeper and deeper into the most miniscule facets of mesothelioma, medical researchers go back to a more basic level to find answers. Basically, mesothelioma is a type of cancer. And, as scientists are increasingly realizing, what kills one type of cancer cell may actually be able to kill other types of cancer cells. So what we’re seeing now is a kind of sharing of experimental medical therapies across types of cancers with the goal of helping as many people as possible.
Now researchers from the prestigious Massachusetts General Hospital, the original and largest teaching hospital of Harvard Medical School , have developed a vaccine that they report can help with mesothelioma as well as ovarian cancer. Reporting their findings in the Journal of Hematology & Oncology, the researchers state that their new method improved immune function and prolonged survival in animal models of both tumors.
Other similar methods depend on the expensive difficult process of extracting immune cells from a patient’s own blood to use to create a treatment that is injected back into the patient for fighting cancer cells. Instead this new treatment consists of an engineered protein mix that binds to mesothelin, a protein found in excess in ovarian cancer cells and mesothelioma cells, activating immune responses and boosting the body’s tumor-fighting ability.
“Many patients with advanced cancers don’t have enough functioning immune cells to be harvested to make a vaccine, but our protein can be made in unlimited amounts to work with the immune cells patients have remaining,” explains study co-author Jeffrey Gelfand, MD, senior scientist at Massachusetts General Hospital’s Vaccine and Immunotherapy Center. “We have created a potentially much less expensive approach to making a therapeutic cancer vaccine that, while targeting a single tumor antigen, generates an immune response against multiple antigens. Now if we can combine this with newly-described ways to remove the immune system’s “brakes” – regulatory functions that normally suppress persistent T-cell activity – the combination could dramatically enhance cancer immunotherapy.”
The researchers have just received a two-year federal grant to continue this promising research work.