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An existing drug provides new hope for mesothelioma victims

A common lament of families struggling with mesothelioma is the shortage of pharmaceutical solutions to the disease. A new study out of the University of Pennsylvania provides a rare ray of hope.

The drug is Pembrolizumab, which goes by the trade name Keytruda.

What is Pembrolizumab? Pembrolizumab is a cancer immunotherapy drug that has been successful in treating metastatic melanoma.

According to a study led by researchers at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, the drug also shows a positive impact on treating malignant pleural mesothelioma.

If you have been reading up on mesothelioma treatment, you know that there is a shortage of medicines that have shown any effectiveness in treating malignant mesothelioma.

Pembrolizumab blocks a protective mechanism used by cancer cells, allowing the immune system to destroy those malignant cells. It works by targeting the programmed cell death 1 (PD-1) receptor.

Pembrolizumab is one of a class of drugs called checkpoint inhibitors that appear more effective than any previous mesothelioma medicine.

Negative side effects to Pembrolizumab include fatigue, skin rash, itchiness, diarrhea, nausea and joint pain.

The research has been written up in The Lancet. A Science Daily summary is available online.

"There have been a lot of studies looking at different drugs, but researchers have not seen positive results," the study's lead author Evan Alley, MD, PhD, chief of Hematology and Medical Oncology at Penn Presbyterian Hospital, says in the article.

"But we've found this new class of drugs, checkpoint inhibitors, seems to be more effective than what's been available in the past."

What causes malignant pleural mesothelioma? Malignant pleural mesothelioma is a rare and aggressive cancer. Nevertheless, it represents about 90 percent of all malignant mesothelioma cases.

The disease is caused by inhaling asbestos fibers found in insulation, vinyl floor tiles, and other material.

In mesothelioma, tumors form in the pleura, a thin sac of cells lining the lungs and chest wall. Most patients with the disease die within a single year. The reason it kills so rapidly is that the disease is usually not detected until the end stages. Most first-line therapy treatment involves chemotherapy and there is no approved second-line therapy.

Free legal consultation: If you or someone close to you has been diagnosed with mesothelioma, talk to an attorney from Richardson, Patrick, Westbrook & Brickman, LLC, to learn about your legal options. Call 843-410-3956.

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