Mesothelioma is a rare and aggressive form of cancer that affects the thin membranes that line the lungs, abdomen, and heart. It is caused by exposure to asbestos and is an incurable disease. In recent years, however, there have been some promising developments in mesothelioma treatment. For example, immunotherapy is a type of cancer treatment that uses the body's own immune system to fight cancer cells. The immune system is the body's natural defense system against invading bacteria and viruses. It is made up of cells and tissues that recognize and attack foreign substances, such as cancer cells. Immunotherapy works by boosting the body's natural defense system and helping it recognize and destroy cancer cells. Immunotherapy for mesothelioma involves using drugs, such as checkpoint inhibitors, to boost the body's immune response to the cancer cells. Checkpoint inhibitors are drugs that block certain proteins on cancer cells, allowing the immune system to recognize and attack them. Other forms of immunotherapy for mesothelioma include adoptive cell transfer, which involves taking a patient's own immune cells and genetically modifying them to recognize and attack the cancer cells. This is a more tailored approach to immunotherapy and can be used in combination with other treatments, such as surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation. This can help to target the cancer cells more effectively and reduce the risk of the cancer spreading to other parts of the body. In October. 2020, the Food and Drug Administration approved the combination of immunotherapy drugs Opdivo (nivolumab) and Yervoy (ipilimumab) as a first-line treatment for pleural mesothelioma. Additional clinical trials with a larger population of mesothelioma patients will provide further details on how well immunotherapy works and its possible side effects. Other immunotherapy drugs being studied for mesothelioma include:
Although, immunotherapy can be an effective treatment option for mesothelioma, it is not a cure. The goal of treatment is to improve patient survival rates and slow the progression of the disease. Patients should discuss their treatment options with their healthcare team to determine the best course of action for their specific case.
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