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Mesothelioma vaccine could extend and protect lives

Kathleen Blanchard's picture

Mesothelioma is a rare form of cancer that most often, though not always, comes from exposure to asbestos, and is an aggressive form of cancer. Researchers are looking into a vaccine for mesothelioma that so far appears safe.

The news that mesothelioma has claimed the life of Los Angeles Rams’ Merlin Olsen highlights the need for early testing and treatment options; one of the newest of which is a vaccine that so far appears to be safe in humans and uses immunotherapy, a promising new approach for treating various types of cancer.

The vaccine explored for mesothelioma that could extend lives uses a patient's own dendritic cells (DC) and antigen from the tumor. A vaccine is needed even though asbestos has been banned for decades because the cancer can develop 50 year after exposure.

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Diagnosis of mesothelioma is usually followed by death within one year, and chemotherapy adds less than six months to survival time.

A vaccine for mesothelioma could extend lives and protect those exposed by producing immunity to the cancer that severely compromises the lungs and other body organs.

Mesothelial tissue is present in the lungs and abdominal cavity (peritoneum), and also covers the heart (pericardium). Cancer most often starts in the lungs or abdomen. According to the National Cancer Institute there are 2000 new cases of the disease diagnosed in the United States each year.

The mesothelioma vaccine research is published in the American Thoracic Society's American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine, March 2010. A drawback of producing the vaccine is that mesothelioma suppresses immunity, interfering with immunotherapy – a problem that researchers are trying to address.

American Thoracic Society