For Pleural Mesothelioma Patients, Drug Appears Promising

For Pleural Mesothelioma Patients, Drug Appears Promising

Results of a new study from researchers in France offer hope to people newly diagnosed with pleural mesothelioma. Phase 3 clinical trial findings appear successful in the use of bevacizumab, also known as Avastin

The report, Bevacizumab for newly diagnosed pleural mesothelioma in the Mesothelioma Avastin Cisplatin Pemetrexed Study (MAPS): a randomised, controlled, open-label, phase 3 trial, appeared in the medical journal The Lancet.

Pleural mesothelioma cancer, whose main cause is asbestos exposure, refers to a tumor of the lung lining that may also affect other organs, including the stomach and heart. It can lead to thickening of the lung tissue and cause trouble breathing. Because the one-year survival rate of patients is only 38 percent,  patients and physicians need new, effective treatments.

Bevacizumab, a cancer treatment developed by the biotech company Genentech and already approved by the FDA for the treatment of metastatic colon cancer, works by blocking the growth of blood vessels that feed a tumor and allow it to become larger. Specifically, bevacizumab blocks a growth factor that nourishes blood vessels, known as vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF).

The research team conducted an open-label clinical trial on bevacizumab, which means participants knew which medication they were given. A total of 448 patients ages 18 to 75 with malignant pleural mesothelioma who had not received prior treatment participated in the study. Participants received intravenous pemetrexed plus cisplatin either with or without bevacizumab in 21-day cycles for a maximum of six cycles. The treatment stopped if there were toxic effects or cancer progression.

The main outcome of the trial was overall survival in the group receiving bevacizumab.

“Addition of bevacizumab to pemetrexed plus cisplatin significantly improved [overall survival] in malignant pleural mesothelioma at the cost of expected manageable toxic effects, therefore it should be considered as a suitable treatment for the disease,” the scientists wrote in their report.

The addition of bevacizumab improved the rate of survival in individuals with pleural mesothelioma, and the effect was statistically meaningful. Side effects were those expected with bevacizumab, including blood problems such as hypertension, hemorrhage, and cardiovascular events. According to the study authors, these side effects were manageable.

Overall, scientists concluded that treatment with bevacizumab could be used in people with pleural mesothelioma. “The pemetrexed plus cisplatin plus bevacizumab regimen should be considered as a new treatment option for patients who are eligible to receive bevacizumab and are not candidates for curative-intent surgery,” the authors wrote.

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