Being diagnosed with mesothelioma cancer can be one of the defining moments in your life. It can be somewhat overwhelming and difficult to accept at first, and going through several chemotherapy and radiation therapies can be emotionally draining and time consuming.

If you feel you have exhausted all of your resources and have gone through various treatments but nothing seems to be working so far, then perhaps now is the right time to consider immunotherapy as an alternative form of therapy.

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Immunotherapy is a form of cancer treatment that is done through clinical trials. In use as early as the 1980s, immunotherapy has been used many times to treat mesothelioma cancer, with varying degrees of success.

Immunotherapy boosts the immune system’s response to cancerous cells. It can be used by itself, but it is bound to be more effective when combined with other types of treatments.

Chemotherapies and radiation therapies can weaken the body’s immune system, but by combining them with immunotherapy, a cancer patient will have a greater chance of survival. 

Some of the benefits that a cancer patient can receive from immunotherapy are the following:

-It slows down and stops the growth of cancer cells.

-It slows down and stops the cancer cells from spreading to other body parts.

-It improves the performance of the immune system when it comes to destroying cancer cells.

-It improves the survival rates of people suffering from mesothelioma cancer.

How It Works

The immune system’s main functions are to protect the body from foreign bodies, and to stop viruses and bacteria in their tracks, before they become full-blown diseases. If there is a foreign substance that enters the human body, an alarm is raised, and the immune system destroys it.

The immune system normally recognizes all of the substances that are found inside the human body and has the natural ability to detect and destroy abnormal cells, including cancerous ones. However, there may be times when cancer cells can be harder to detect because they appear to be normal to the immune system. 

Active vs Passive Immunotherapy

There are two types of immunotherapy: passive and active. Passive immunotherapy are treatments which are aimed at improving the pre-existing immune system through the use of man-made protein antibodies administered to the patient’s body to help fight off an infection. Examples of these treatments are monoclonal antibodies and cytokines.

Active immunotherapy, on the other hand, has a longer shelf life and develops over time. Unlike passive immunotherapy which relies on a man-made antibody, active immunotherapy stimulates the body’s own immune system in order for it to fight the tumor even harder through the use of cancer vaccines.

These cancer vaccines will not only boost the immune system, they will also attack the cancer cells by specifically targeting the tumor antigens.

Study Shows Promise for Meso Patients

In a recent study performed at the Penn Mesothelioma and Pleural Program, the immunotherapy drug Pembrolizumab shrank or stopped the tumor growth of patients who were suffering from pleural mesothelioma.

Out of the 25 people who participated in the clinical trial, 7 patients experienced shrinkage of their tumors, while 12 patients had their tumors stopped from growing further. This clinical trial has been funded by Merck, which is the manufacturer of Pembrolizumab. The FDA has approved this drug for treatment of melanoma.             

Immunotherapy clinical trials have the potential to be a lifesaver for mesothelioma patients.

Unfortunately, not too many people are aware that there are plenty of opportunities to participate in clinical trials. Some people will also find it hard to agree to a clinical trial for fear that it will put them at greater risk, or that it will not work as well as standard treatments.

Immunotherapies are actually safe. By participating to a clinical trial, you get access to a treatment that you will not be able to get anywhere else. You also get to advance cancer research and help other patients in the future.

There are already a number of immunotherapy treatments that are used to treat patients, and there are even more that are being used in clinical trials. Whatever stage you are in your journey as a cancer patient, you need to get all the help you can get, and you and your doctor may determine that immunotherapy could be one of them.