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Dr. Aaron Mansfield is on the cutting edge of the long-awaited breakthrough that will impact the way malignant pleural mesothelioma is treated in the future.
Mansfield is a medical oncologist and translational scientist specializing in lung cancer and mesothelioma at Minnesota’s Mayo Clinic in Rochester.
He believes immunotherapy, which allows a patient’s own immune system to fight the cancer cells, will change the way doctors will be treating their patients.
Standard-of-care treatment for mesothelioma, which has no definitive cure and a traditionally poor prognosis, has not changed since 2003 when pemetrexed was added to cisplatin as a chemotherapy combination.
Mansfield believes that immunotherapy will soon become the accepted second-line therapy for mesothelioma and challenge the front-line treatment still used today.
“Immunotherapy is knocking on the door of our standard of care right now,” he said. “If we talk again in a year or two, there is going to be a different treatment landscape than there is now.”
When he isn’t seeing patients, Mansfield is immersed in basic research and clinical trials that benefit current and future patients, discovering what works and doesn’t work well, and helping move new therapies through the approval process.
Mansfield’s research, according to the Mayo Clinic, involves the development of drugs that will fight mesothelioma and slow tumor growth, among other studies.
“For a subset of patients with lung cancer, you can say with some certainty that this drug, or that drug, will shrink the tumor and you’ll feel better,” he said. “The problem with mesothelioma is we can’t always predict who will benefit, and who will not.”
Mansfield recently wrote an editorial for the journal Lung Cancer.
“The lung cancer data today supports the fact that these drugs are effective,” he said. “But you can’t always make the leap that because they work for lung cancer they’ll work for mesothelioma. That being said, patients with mesothelioma are responding.”
Mansfield graduated from the University of California-Irvine School of Medicine in 2006. He did his residency and fellowship in internal medicine at the Mayo Clinic College of Medicine, where he stayed and served as a clinical investigator in 2013.
“Immunotherapy is not a cure-all. And you can’t get overly optimistic for the reality of what it does,” he said. “But for a subset of patients, they are going to do better, and with few side effects. I can’t predict, but my hope is that these [drugs] become standard of care.”