Mesothelioma Clinical Trial to Involve Drug Studied for COVID-19

Research & Clinical Trials

Written by Tim Povtak

Reading Time: 4 mins
Publication Date: 12/07/2021
Fact Checked
Our fact-checking process begins with a thorough review of all sources to ensure they are high quality. Then we cross-check the facts with original medical or scientific reports published by those sources, or we validate the facts with reputable news organizations, medical and scientific experts and other health experts. Each page includes all sources for full transparency.
Reviewed is the nation’s most trusted mesothelioma resource

The Mesothelioma Center at has provided patients and their loved ones the most updated and reliable information on mesothelioma and asbestos exposure since 2006.

Our team of Patient Advocates includes a medical doctor, a registered nurse, health services administrators, veterans, VA-accredited Claims Agents, an oncology patient navigator and hospice care expert. Their combined expertise means we help any mesothelioma patient or loved one through every step of their cancer journey.

More than 30 contributors, including mesothelioma doctors, survivors, health care professionals and other experts, have peer-reviewed our website and written unique research-driven articles to ensure you get the highest-quality medical and health information.

About The Mesothelioma Center at

  • Assisting mesothelioma patients and their loved ones since 2006.
  • Helps more than 50% of mesothelioma patients diagnosed annually in the U.S.
  • A+ rating from the Better Business Bureau.
  • 5-star reviewed mesothelioma and support organization.
Learn More About Us


My family has only the highest compliment for the assistance and support that we received from The Mesothelioma Center. This is a staff of compassionate and knowledgeable individuals who respect what your family is experiencing and who go the extra mile to make an unfortunate diagnosis less stressful. Information and assistance were provided by The Mesothelioma Center at no cost to our family.
Mesothelioma patient’s daughter
  • Google Review Rating
  • BBB Review Rating

How to Cite’s Article


Povtak, T. (2022, March 29). Mesothelioma Clinical Trial to Involve Drug Studied for COVID-19. Retrieved June 8, 2023, from


Povtak, Tim. "Mesothelioma Clinical Trial to Involve Drug Studied for COVID-19.", 29 Mar 2022,


Povtak, Tim. "Mesothelioma Clinical Trial to Involve Drug Studied for COVID-19." Last modified March 29, 2022.

A novel phase II clinical trial for malignant mesothelioma is expected to open soon and involve a versatile, biological drug already showing promise in treating severe cases of COVID-19.

Oncotelic Therapeutics Inc., an innovative, immunotherapy/oncology company in Agoura Hills, California, hopes to open the mesothelioma clinical trial by March at a dozen prominent U.S. treatment centers, including the Cleveland Clinic Cancer Center, University of Pennsylvania Medicine in Philadelphia and Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle.

“We’re excited about the potential. There is a huge unmet medical need with mesothelioma. The hope is that we can use this to increase the response to checkpoint inhibitors,” Dr. Anthony Maida, chief clinical officer at Oncotelic, told The Mesothelioma Center at “The goal is to help these patients live longer, better lives.”

OT-101 is the name of the biologic, made from complex molecules and manufactured using living microorganisms. It works by inhibiting transforming growth factor beta (TGF-beta), a protein that suppresses a patient’s own immune system and allows tumors to flourish.

TGF-beta is expressed in many cancers, but in particularly high levels with mesothelioma tumors.

“We are essentially trying to suppress the suppressor,” Maida said.

Drug Helps the Immune System Work

Both tumor cells and the coronavirus induce TGF-beta as part of their immune evasion mechanism, potentially making OT-101 impactful with COVID-19 and cancers.

The OT-101 treatment already showed positive activity in a recently completed phase II clinical trial involving patients hospitalized with severe COVID-19 symptoms.

It also will be tested soon with glioblastoma, lung and colorectal cancers, according to Oncotelic Therapeutics.

OT-101 will be used in the upcoming mesothelioma study in combination with checkpoint inhibitor drugs, the most common of which are pembrolizumab and nivolumab, both already being used in various ways to treat mesothelioma.

scientists researching in lab
Clinical Trials for Mesothelioma
Get help improving your prognosis by finding a mesothelioma clinical trial today.

Improving Checkpoint Inhibitors

The effectiveness of checkpoint inhibitor drugs with mesothelioma has been inconsistent. It has worked exceptionally well, but only for a small percentage of patients.

“What we’re hoping is that by combining with checkpoint inhibitors, we will see a better response in more patients. We would love to get the 20%-25% effectiveness that there is now to 50% effectiveness,” Maida said. “We can help these patients.”

The FDA recently approved the checkpoint inhibitor combination of nivolumab and ipilimumab, also known by brand names Opdivo and Yervoy, for first-line treatment of pleural mesothelioma.

The median survival improvement for patients, though, was only modest for the most common subtype of disease when compared to standard chemotherapy.

That’s where OT-101 could make a difference if proven effective in early clinical trials.

“The major reason for the failure of these checkpoint inhibitor drugs with mesothelioma is the high levels of [TGF-beta],” Maida said.

OT-101 Trial Will Boost Research Efforts

The upcoming clinical trial will not only test the influence of OT-101 on the checkpoint inhibitors but will be used to help identify more predictive biomarkers for TGF-beta.

CAR T-cell therapy, for example, which involves the modification of a patient’s own T cells, has been shown in the laboratory to benefit greatly from the inhibition of the TGF-beta protein. The long-range hope is to find better ways to counter defense mechanisms used by the tumor cells.

Mesothelioma is a rare cancer with no definitive cure, diagnosed in an estimated 3,000 people within the U.S. annually. It is most often caused by the inhalation of toxic asbestos fibers.

“This is the first of a series of planned clinical trials in patients with various solid tumors evaluating clinical benefit, while also assessing a host of parameters associated with changes in the tumor microenvironment,” Maida said. “We’re moving forward.”

blue medical health symbol
Connect with a Mesothelioma Doctor
Find a Top Specialist Near You