Mesothelioma is often seen among the aging population, primarily because of its long latency period. In turn, increased age has been linked to immune system decline. Knowing all of this, new research shows that improving immune system dysfunction may have a positive impact on the regression of mesothelioma cancer cells.
One study from Curtin University and the University of Western Australia found that by targeting macrophages, the white blood cells that help stimulate an immune response from other cells in the immune system, immune dysfunction in the elderly may be reversed. This means that the immune system may be capable of fighting and killing cancer cells.
“Immune dysfunction is not permanent and in fact can be restored to function similarly to a young immune system,” said Dr. Connie Jackaman, member of Curtin University’s immunology and cancer group, in a Science Network article about the study.
Another study focused on the anti-CD40 antibody, which was described as “one of the most powerful new cancer immunotherapies.” This antibody has the ability to increase the body’s production of tumor-fighting T-cells.
In the study, researchers surgically removed mesothelioma cancer tumors from lab mice. Afterwards, more cancer cells were given to the mice to stimulate cancer recurrence. As the new tumors began to grow, the mice were then treated with the anti-CD40 antibody either directly on the growing tumor, in an area close to the tumor, or as a treatment through the bloodstream.
Results showed that the postsurgical cancer growth slowed in comparison to the mice not treated with the anti-CD40 antibody. The treatment also slowed the growth of local recurrences and improved survival rates from the recurrences.
Immunotherapy is often used to treat mesothelioma. It is a treatment that uses the body’s immune system to fight the cancer. These new study findings show promising results for a basis for further research on the effectiveness of immunotherapy, because it is not yet known if this treatment is effective in elderly human patients with mesothelioma.
Other common types of mesothelioma treatment options include surgery (to decrease fluid buildup, remove the tissue around the lungs or abdomen, remove as much of the tumor as possible, or remove a lung), chemotherapy, radiation therapy and experimental clinical trials. Because there is still no cure for mesothelioma, insights from studies like the one described above are positive reminders that we are moving closer to a cure every day.