Bryan Burt, M.D., FACS
Bryan Burt, M.D., FACS

The Baylor College of Medicine Mesothelioma Treatment Center at Baylor St. Luke’s Medical Center announced today that it has opened a new clinical trial that combines immunotherapy and surgery for the treatment of mesothelioma.

This is the first in-human study of neoadjuvant (before surgery) administration of a checkpoint inhibitor immunotherapy followed by surgical resection in patients with malignant pleural mesothelioma. The treatment focuses on the use of a preoperative boost to the immune system and cytoreductive surgery with state-of-the art surgical techniques to combat the disease. The groundbreaking protocol will lay the foundation for multimodality therapy that includes using the patient’s own immune system in combination with surgical resection.

“We are very excited to be able to offer this trial to our patients. Much of our own data suggests that pleural mesothelioma may be a more immunogenic tumor than previously realized, and I predict that immunotherapy will rise to become a critical component of multimodality therapy for mesothelioma patients,” said Dr. Bryan Burt, assistant professor of surgery at Baylor College of Medicine and principal investigator of the trial. “This trial is one of the first of its kind in which immunotherapy is given before surgery, and from it, we expect to learn an enormous amount about this disease.”

For this study, two therapies will be compared: MEDI4736 alone (monotherapy with one type of checkpoint inhibitor) and MEDI4736 plus tremelimumab (combination therapy with two types of checkpoint inhibitors). Checkpoint inhibitors are drugs that block the negative signals that tumor cells display to the body’s immune system. By blocking such negative signals, the immune system is re-activated and the tumor is targeted. If the tumor tries to recur, the goal is that the immune system, by its previous reactivation by the drugs, will display a quick memory response to eradicate the recurring tumor.

During the procedure, the tumors are first biopsied and the patients will receive one of the two doses of immunotherapy. Following medication delivery and immune reactivation, patients undergo surgical resection with contemporary surgical techniques to remove all visible tumors, which are also collected for investigation by the Mesothelioma Treatment Center research team.

“This clinical trial is only one of many mesothelioma treatment protocols available at the Mesothelioma Treatment Center and builds upon a strong foundation of mesothelioma research at Baylor College of Medicine,” said Dr. David Sugarbaker, professor of surgery and chief of thoracic surgery at Baylor and director of the Mesothelioma Treatment Center. “Our direct affiliation with the Dan L Duncan Comprehensive Cancer Center, a NCI-designated Comprehensive Cancer Center, facilitates innovative and sophisticated research protocols such as this one.”

Part of the Baylor Lung Institute at Baylor St. Luke’s, the Mesothelioma Treatment Center is one of the nation’s largest mesothelioma treatment centers, providing consultations to more than 200 patients per year.

For more information regarding the clinical trial or the Mesothelioma Treatment Center, call (713) 798-6376.