Once someone is diagnosed with malignant mesothelioma, treatments such as radiation therapy and surgery can help slow its advancement and allow a patient to extend his or her lifespan. Unfortunately, however, there is currently no cure for the disease.
Because of these roadblocks in providing quality care for patients living with mesothelioma, doctors and researchers have been on the hunt for a new and effective treatment avenue. Most recently, those efforts have been focused on bringing personalized medicine to the forefront of mesothelioma research.
A new drug treatment
A recent study may have discovered a way for doctors to slow the advancement of the disease for patients with a unique genetic disposition. The report is titled “Mesothelioma drug slows disease progression in patients with inactive NF2 gene” and was conducted by The European CanCer Organization. The team of researchers presented their findings last year at the Symposium on Molecular Targets and Cancer Therapeutics in Dublin, Ireland.
The ECCO study has identified preliminary evidence that a new medication could extend the longevity of certain patients living with this disease.
In past research, cancer experts determined that the gene NF2 becomes inactive in approximately half of all mesothelioma cases. NF2 produces a protein known as merlin, which negatively impacts another protein related to mesothelioma called focal adhesion kinase (FAK). In cases where NF2 and merlin are inactive, FAK can spread unchecked. This causes mesothelioma cells to rapidly invade other parts of the body.
“This suggested that if we could inhibit FAK in mesothelioma patients, it might slow or stop the spread of the disease,” said Professor Jean-Charles Soria of South Paris University and head of early drug development at the Institut Gustave Roussy. “Pre-clinical work has shown that an agent, currently known as GSK2256098, is a potent and specific inhibitor of FAK. Early in the clinical study we presented [in November 2012], a patient with mesothelioma, who had progressed quickly on prior therapies, had prolonged stable disease while on GSK2256098, which is suggestive of clinical activity.”
In order to arrive at their conclusion, the ECCO researchers studied a group of 29 patients living with mesothelioma from France, the UK and Australia. These patients then participated in a phase I drug trial of GSK2256098, which required them to take a pill orally twice a day. While there were no absolute results for the experimental drug treatment, the researchers did find that the medication was effective overall. On average, the 29 patients saw their mesothelioma progression slow for approximately 17 weeks before advancing again.
Personalized medicine research
According to the American Cancer Society, personalized medicine is based on the individual genetic makeup of patients.
In the future, doctors using DNA information may be able to determine what diseases a patient is at risk of developing, and what treatments are best suited for the individual. While personalized medicine is still in its experimental stages, it has had successes with identifying genes linked to breast cancer, blood cancer and other forms of the disease.
Storing this information in a digital format will also allow doctors to instantly access an individual’s genetic data to make smarter, accurate medical decisions about treatment. Patients would have the opportunity to take a blood test, which would offer experts an analysis of 20,000 coding-genes in the human body. With the rise of electronic medical records being used by doctors, this digital information will not only provide doctors with a sense of what conditions a patient is likely to develop, but which particular treatments may or may not be effective.