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Study Discovers New Cancer Drug Shrinks Mesothelioma Tumors, Human Trials in Motion

Researchers at the Olivia Newton John Cancer Research Institute (ONJRI) say a promising new drug for treating mesothelioma is on the horizon. According to the team, which included Professor Tom John, Dr. Puey Ling Chia, and Professor Hui Gan, the drug is an antibody drug conjugate, which binds to a target on the surface of the cancer cell and releases “little packets” of chemotherapy. Unlike traditional treatments that kill both good and bad cells, the treatment is designed to kill only the bad. So far, the new drug has already been shown to be safe in humans with brain cancer.

During the study, the ONJRI research team catalogued mesothelioma tissue samples, created a database, and grew human cancers in mice. After these steps were complete, Professor John “decided to see if the tumors expressed the same molecule his colleagues in the adjacent lab were working on,” reports the Herald Sun. The results revealed that mesothelioma did indeed express the same molecule addressed by the brain cancer drug. “The discovery that mesothelioma expressed the same molecule addressed by the brain cancer drug was a result of hard work, lateral thinking, and some serendipity.” It is important to note that in the mice models, the tumors shrank and “if we stopped the treatment they grew back,” explained John.

Based on data from the Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results (SEER) Program of the National Cancer Institute (NCI), the relative 5-year survival rate for mesothelioma is between 5% and 10%. People diagnosed at a younger age tend to survive longer. Because survival rates are poor, the ONJRI research team said that there is an urgent need to find better treatments. Now, with the help of two research grants funded by a deceased mesothelioma victim and his family, plans are underway for human clinical trials to begin. Awarded by the Cancer Council Victoria, the grants will be distributed among the ONJRI research team and Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre.

If you have been diagnosed with mesothelioma, talk to your doctor about innovative clinical trials such as the ONJRI study. Trials such as these often accept mesothelioma patients from all over the world and some go on to become “lifesaving” treatments. Talk to your doctor about participating in a clinical trial today.



Berg, Lucie Van Den. "Cancer Drug Developed in Melbourne Offers Hope to Asbestos Cancer Mesothelioma Victims." Herald Sun, 12 Mar. 2017. Web. 02 Dec. 2017.

"Shrinking Cancer." Austin Health and the Olivia Newton-John Cancer Research Institute, 14 Mar. 2017. Web. 02 Dec. 2017.

"Survival Statistics for Mesothelioma." American Cancer Society. American Cancer Society, Inc., 2017. Web. 02 Dec. 2017.