New Immunotherapy Treatment Provides Hope for Mesothelioma Patients
November 2, 2011
An associate professor at the University of Western Australia believes that he has hit on a new treatment for mesothelioma, one that shows promising signs of being able to stem the cancer’s growth.
Manfred Beilharz, the university researcher and associate professor behind this potential breakthrough, refers to it as “triple therapy.”
“We’re beating it now, which is why I feel like I finally have something to say and can talk to people who are obviously desperate for some sort of improvement in the treatment regime,” Beilharz said.
According to the researcher, this form of immunotherapy involves manipulating a patient’s immune system in three different ways. Early results have shown positive outcomes when tested on mice.
A Promising Future
This triple therapy treatment consists of strengthening three ‘arms’ of the immune system defense process to fight off mesothelioma cancer cells. Prior attempts through single or double immunotherapy approach proved beneficial but not curative. Targeting three areas resulted in the defeat of the cancerous cells in the experiments.
As current treatment options are limited and are typically used to increase quality of life, this new therapy may change the dynamic of treatments.
The concept of this type of treatment dates back for decades, according to the associate professor.
“This is an old dream of immunologists that’s been around for perhaps 20-30 years, that you should be able to hype up your body’s own defenses and use them as part of the armament against cancer,” Beilharz said.
He anticipates moving the research to the testing phase involving humans, through clinical trials. His hope is that if clinical trials prove successful, then the treatment option will be available to mesothelioma patients within five years.
Local reports indicate Beilharz’s motivation for the research stems from his connection to his community. As someone who grew up in the Latrobe Valley, he was aware of the asbestos exposure of many construction workers for the former State Electricity Commission Victoria.
A Global Problem
This treatment option comes at a time when mesothelioma deaths continue to mount around the world, with the primary cause being attributed to environmental exposure.
Mesothelioma is caused by asbestos exposure and does not have a cure. Typically, this cancer results in unfavorable prognoses and low survival rates for patients.
A University of Melbourne study puts the number of cases of mesothelioma around 600 per year in Australia, which is extremely high when proportionally compared to the population and incidence rate of the disease within the United States.
In America, mesothelioma affects between 2,000 and 3,000 people every year. Some experts state that disease will not peak until 2020.