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Pembrolizumab not the hoped-for "miracle drug" for mesothelioma

Malignant pleural mesothelioma is an aggressive form of cancer often linked with on-the-job asbestos exposure. There is no cure, and there are few treatment options available. Only one drug, Alimta, has been approved for treatment. Louisville residents should be aware that researchers were looking for a while to a drug called pembrolizumab as a possible "miracle drug" for the cancer.

Unfortunately, the Phase III trials of pembrolizumab were underwhelming. The results, which were presented to the European Society of Medical Oncology conference, suggest that the drug is no more effective than chemotherapy. The study involved 144 relapsed mesothelioma patients, and the overall survival rate was 10.7 months for those who took pembrolizumab and 11.7 for those who underwent chemotherapy.

In an earlier clinical trial, though, 76% of mesothelioma patients responded to the drug with nearly half experiencing a temporary cessation of tumor growth. Almost one fourth of the patients saw the tumors shrink.

Pembrolizumab is meant to block a certain protein called PD-1 from attaching itself to cancer cells and suppressing the immune system. For this reason, it is classed as an immunotherapy drug. Pembrolizumab is not a complete disappointment as the study showed how patients on the drug had a lower rate of complications. Further research is needed to determine which sub-groups benefit most from it.

Asbestos-related illnesses can often be pinned to unsafe working conditions, so those who develop mesothelioma may want to speak with a lawyer about filing a claim. There may be plenty of evidence to suggest that the employer was being negligent, in which case the lawyer may hire investigators to gather that evidence and prepare a case. The lawyer may negotiate for a fair settlement covering past and future medical expenses and other losses, litigating if one isn't achieved.

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