December 27, 2011 – Penn Medicine has released the results of a ground-breaking clinical study by researchers at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania. The results show that using immune-gene therapy may be an effective treatment for early-stage mesothelioma. The current study was recently reported in the December 15, 2011 edition of the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine .
In the study, the Penn team, led by Daniel Sterman, M.D., Associate Professor of Medicine, Pulmonary, Allergy, and Critical Care Division, and Director of Interventional Pulmonology, tested a new gene therapy approach in which an adenovirus – a modified cold virus – was altered to express high levels of a powerful immune system stimulant called interferon-alpha. The virus was injected directly into the chest cavities of nine patients with mesothelioma tumors. This direct introduction of the virus caused the interferon-alpha to be produced at high levels within the tumor, leading to an activation of the patients’ own immune systems against the disease, with antibody responses against the tumors in almost all of the patients. While no clinical responses were seen in the four patients with advanced-stage mesothelioma, evidence of disease stability or tumor regression was noted in the other five patients, including one “dramatic” example of partial tumor regression.
As reported in a recent KYW News report, the researchers believe that the results of this landmark study, funded by the National Cancer Institute and the Benjamin Shein Foundation for Humanity, show that incorporating immune-gene therapy with current treatment methods for mesothelioma will be beneficial in the treatment of early-stage mesothelioma cases. Penn Medicine is continuing its research in this immune-gene therapy approach by testing it in early stage patients in combination with chemotherapy.
The Benjamin Shein Foundation for Humanity is a charitable trust created to provide grants to fund research for the advancement of treatment and a cure for mesothelioma and other asbestos-related diseases. The Foundation also provides grants, gifts and donations to medical institutions and support and care-giving organizations. In addition, the Benjamin Shein Foundation is a frequent sponsor of conferences intended to increase awareness of the deadly consequences of asbestos use and to further efforts to prevent, treat and cure mesothelioma and other asbestos-related diseases.