National Centre for Asbestos Related Diseases

Combined drug therapy offers hope of a cure for mesothelioma

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Researchers who pioneered the first blood test for mesothelioma at the National Centre for Asbestos Related Diseases (NCARD) based at Sir Charles Gairdner Hospital have found that a cream that cures some skin cancers could be a potential weapon against the deadly lung disease.

27 November, 2008 - Media statement

Mesothelioma is a lung cancer that is usually caused by exposure to asbestos. It kills over 700 Australians each year and is expected to kills hundreds of thousands more around the world in the next few decades. Most sufferers die within a year of being diagnosed because none of the current treatments can cure the disease.

Now in a surprise development the drug Imiquimod (Aldara), which is used topically to effectively treat basal cell carcinomas and other skin cancers, has been found to kill advanced mesothelioma tumours in mice when injected directly into the tumours and combined with another drug - anti-CD40.

Researcher UWA PhD Student Steve Broomfield said Imiquimod alone triggered a receptor that made the immune system think it was under attack by viruses.

"That caused previously dormant killer lymphocytes to spread through the body and attack the cancer, at least doubling survival times," said Mr Broomfield.

"When combined with the stimulant anti-CD40, half of the treated animals were cured of mesothelioma even when the tumours were quite advanced," he said.

Supervisor of the research, Immunologist and Senior Research Fellow Dr Andrew Currie said the finding was a potentially exciting breakthrough.

"This combination is so attractive because one of these drugs is already commercially available and the other is being tested in clinical trials," said Dr Currie.

"That means the time-frame for undertaking our own clinical trial is minimised because the safety of the drugs has already been investigated," he said.

Professor Bruce Robinson, Director of NCARD and a Consultant Respiratory Physician at Sir Charles Gairdner Hospital who was also involved in this project, said he was optimistic the breakthrough could lead to clinical trials within a few years.

"From here we will work to undertake a clinical trial involving the NCARD centres in all states of Australia to deliver this treatment to mesothelioma patients within three to five years," said Prof Robinson.

"Research will also continue into the puzzle of how and why this works so well in mesothelioma in mice, if we can use it effectively in the treatment of other cancers and how other molecules in the Lab that are chemically related to Imiquimodmay be made to work even better."

 
 

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Last updated:
Wednesday, 18 November, 2015 2:57 PM

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