The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has recently announced that it has approved a new combination therapy for the treatment of mesothelioma, a rare type of cancer. The combination is the second-ever systemic therapy for this disease to receive approval from the agency. The approval is the first in sixteen years for mesothelioma. The combination consists of the drugs nivolumab (marketed as Opdivo) and ipilimumab (marketed as Yervoy).
Mesothelioma is a rare and deadly cancer that originates from the lining of tissue that surrounds most of the body’s internal organs, called the mesothelium. Mesothelioma is known as the type of cancer that most commonly originates from exposure to asbestos. Over eighty percent of cases are directly linked to such exposure. It most commonly appears in the lining of the lungs and chest wall, but can also occur around the heart, around the testes, and along the abdominal lining. Symptoms of mesothelioma are variable depending in the location, but may include chest pain, shortness of breath, fatigue, coughing, weight loss, and a swollen abdomen. They develop slowly, and cancer often appears several decades after exposure. It responds poorly to treatment, with five year survival rate sitting around eight percent. Around 20,000 people in the US get diagnosed every year. There is a dire need for more effective treatment options in this form of cancer. To learn more about mesothelioma, click here.
Dr. Richard Pazdur, who directs the Oncology Center of Excellence at the FDA, had this to say about the approval decision:
“Today’s approval of nivolumab plus ipilimumab provides a new treatment that has demonstrated an improvement in overall survival for patients with malignant pleural mesothelioma…now patients now have an important, additional treatment option after more than a decade with only one FDA-approved drug regimen.”
About The Treatment
The combination was evaluated in a trial of 605 patients whose malignant pleural mesothelioma had not been treated and were not eligible for surgical intervention. The combination was able to produce improved overall survival times compared to chemo treatment, producing a median time of 18.1 months versus 14.1 months. Side effects of this treatment may include pain, breathing problems, diarrhea, rash, itching, coughing, fatigue, and loss of appetite.