Precision Cancer Medicine

for Malignant Mesothelioma

Genomic or Biomarker Testing-Precision Cancer Medicine

The purpose of precision cancer medicine is to define the genomic alterations in the cancers DNA that are driving that specific cancer. Cancer used to be diagnosed solely by a visual microscopic examination of tumor tissue and all patients received the same chemotherapy. Precision cancer medicine utilizes molecular diagnostic & genomic testing, including DNA sequencing, to identify cancer-driving abnormalities in a cancer’s genome. Once a genetic abnormality is identified, a specific targeted therapy can be designed to attack a specific mutation or other cancer-related change in the DNA programming of the cancer cells. Precision cancer medicine uses targeted drugs and immunotherapies engineered to directly attack the cancer cells with specific abnormalities, leaving normal cells largely unharmed.

By testing an individual’s cancer for specific unique biomarkers doctors can offer the most personalized treatment approach utilizing precision medicines.

Checkpoint inhibitors are a new precision cancer designed to free the body’s immune system to fight back against cancer. Keytruda (pembrolizumab), in particular, has been used to treat melanoma, non-small cell lung cancer, and in some cases, head and neck cancers.

Keytruda an antibody drug already used to treat other forms of cancer, can be effective in the treatment of the most common form of mesothelioma, according to a new study led by investigators from the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania. The study, published in The Lancet Oncology, is the first to show a positive impact from checkpoint inhibitor immunotherapy drugs on this disease.1

Doctors administered Keytruda to 25 patients with pleural mesothelioma who had either already been treated with chemotherapy or were unable to receive it. Patients who had already received another checkpoint inhibitor were not included in the study.  The tumor reduced in size in 14 of those patients. On average, patients went about six months without their disease progressing, and overall survival was about 18 months.  There are multiple studies going on right now to confirm these findings and confirm the utility of Keytuda and other checkpoint inhibitors and precision cancer medicines in order to improve the survival of individuals with malignant mesothelioma.1