Despite promising results for the immunotherapy drug tremelimumab in clinical trials, a team at the University of Salford, U.K., are wondering if the drug’s potential benefits for the treatment of malignant pleural mesothelioma will outweigh its likely costs. The team’s work, the result of a review of medical literature, was published in the journal Expert Opinion on Biological Therapy under the title,”Tremelimumab for the treatment malignant mesothelioma“and is covered in a recent article in Surviving Mesothelioma.
The study’s first author, Alice Guazelli, a PhD researcher at the University of Salford, said in a press release, “Even though clinical efficacy has been preliminarily demonstrated, the cost/benefit ratio of this drug for this neoplasm is yet to be ascertained.”
The first clinical trials of tremelimumab, a monoclonal antibody, have only just been completed, and those results are now coming “under critical consideration,” the researchers said. “Until a cure for mesothelioma can be found, every new potential treatment has to be subjected to this kind of cost/benefit analysis,” said Alex Strauss, Managing Editor of Surviving Mesothelioma. “Combatting mesothelioma, while preserving quality of life, is always a balancing act.”
Tremelimumab works by binding to the protein CTLA-4 on the surface of white blood cells, and aims to prevent the protein from inhibiting the cells’ cancer-fighting power. In April, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration granted Orphan Drug Status to tremelimumab for the treatment of mesothelioma, a designation reserved for treatments of rarer diseases that gives its manufacturer, AstraZeneca, incentives to test the drug and, if approved, to bring it to market more quickly.
The U.K. review also noted that tremelimumab was first studied as a potential treatment for melanoma skin cancer before being expanded to other cancers, including malignant mesothelioma.
Mesothelioma is an unusual cancer formed in the cells of the mesothelium, the layer that protects many of the body’s organs. The mesothelium’s main purpose is to produce a lubricant, providing a “protective wall” allowing healthy movement between the organs and tissues. It is what makes the lungs and abdomen expand and contract effortlessly.
According to Surviving Mesothelioma, mesothelioma is thought to be caused by asbestos, a silicate mineral widely used in the past in construction, sound absortion, automotive parts, and household products. Today it is known that the prolonged exposure to asbestos can lead to lung cancer, mesothelioma, and pneumoconiosis.