The research team studied 144 patients who had advanced pre-treated cases of mesothelioma in Phase 3 PROMISE-meso trial. These individuals were randomly selected to receive 200mg of pembrolizumab once every three weeks or standard chemotherapy featuring gemcitabine and vinorelbine.
For pembrolizumab, the median overall survival was 10.7 months. This compared fairly well with 11.7 months reported for chemotherapy.
The group that received immunotherapy also showed slightly fewer adverse events. There was one fatality in each of the groups.
The hope is that these findings may lead to a new treatment. The results stress the need to investigate why immunotherapy seems to produce a response in some patients and not in others.
“Although we did not see better survival with immunotherapy in the PROMISE-meso study, the responses are encouraging and the results of the ongoing trials of checkpoint inhibitor treatment in earlier stage mesothelioma will be very important to clinicians,” said Grosso, who emphasized the need for better first and second-line treatments for this thoracic cancer form.