A mesothelioma diagnosis is never good news. But one family in Northern California turned their misfortune into a way to help other mesothelioma patients find better treatments. With the settlement money Kazan Law negotiated on their behalf, they created the Boyd Family Fund at Kazan McClain Partners’ Foundation to fund clinical trials research. One trial of a mesothelioma immunotherapy treatment, partially supported by the Boyd Family Fund, is showing promising early results.
The Boyds’ commitment to finding better mesothelioma immunotherapy treatments shows how mesothelioma patients and their families can push the science forward toward a cure for this life-threatening cancer.
Using an Asbestos Trial Settlement for the Greater Good: Gerald Boyd’s Story
Mesothelioma can develop when spindly asbestos fibers lodge in your body. These fibers are most often inhaled, so they land most frequently in the lining around your lung, which is called the mesothelium. This form of the disease is called malignant pleural mesothelioma (MPM) and about three quarters of mesothelioma patients have this mesothelioma type.
Mesothelioma can take decades to form after asbestos exposure. Not everyone who is exposed to asbestos will develop this rare cancer. Gerald Boyd’s risk was higher than most, because he had been exposed to toxic asbestos fibers for most of his life. Starting in 1947, when he was just four years old, his father brought home loose asbestos fibers on his work clothes. In 1967, Mr. Boyd went to work at the same place as his father, where he was surrounded by airborne asbestos fibers, for almost 20 years.
By the time Gerald Boyd was diagnosed with malignant pleural mesothelioma in June 2014, he had Stage III mesothelioma – too advanced for surgery to help.
But Gerald Boyd was nothing if not a fighter. He kept up with his daily activities as long as he was able. He did everything he could to make sure his family’s future would be secure after he was gone. He took the big corporations responsible for his asbestos exposure to court (with the help of Kazan Law) and justice prevailed.
Mr. Boyd died in 2016, but his fighting spirit lives on through the Boyd Family Fund. With some of the funds from the settlement, his wife Judith Boyd and their children pledged to do something concrete to help other mesothelioma patients. They are using their settlement to prevent other families from going through the heartache they experienced.
What is a Mesothelioma Immunotherapy Clinical Trial?
The Boyd Family Fund’s investment in research is paying off, with a promising Phase 1b clinical trial for CRS-207, a mesothelioma immunotherapy vaccine. The trial, “Safety and Efficacy of Listeria in Combination With Chemotherapy as Front-line Treatment for Malignant Pleural Mesothelioma,” is ongoing at several medical centers, including the University of California, San Francisco.
Clinical trials are the human study part of the development of each new mesothelioma immunotherapy treatment. Clinical trials go through several phases. At each phase, researchers refine the dosage and timing of treatment. Each phase adds more participants, so researchers can study the effects of the new mesothelioma immunotherapy drug on a wider group of patients.
It’s an exciting time for cancer research in general and mesothelioma immunotherapy research in particular. Many mesothelioma patients choose to participate in clinical trials, because they offer patients early access to new and potentially more effective treatments. Some trials require that you haven’t already received other treatments, so it’s good to look at what mesothelioma clinical trials are available as soon after your diagnosis as possible.
The clinical trial of CRS-207 that the Boyd Family helped fund has enrolled 38 patients with non-operable MPM. It tests the combination of mesothelioma immunotherapy vaccine CRS-207 with chemotherapy drugs pemetrexed and cisplatin.
The CRS-207 clinical trial will end in December 2017 and is not accepting new patients. Many other studies are looking for mesothelioma patients. Mesothelioma Circle has a new tool to help you find a mesothelioma clinical trial that’s right for you.
Mesothelioma Immunotherapy Vaccine
Your immune system works in two ways. Your innate immune system offers a set of defenses and immune responses, such as inflammation, to ward off everyday invaders. Your Innate immune system responds the same way every time.
Your adaptive immune system, by contrast, learns from each challenge it faces. The adaptive immune system allows us to build up immunity to childhood diseases and to different strains of the flu. Once your adaptive immune system deals with a particular bug, it is ready with antigens to fight back next time.
Vaccines work by stimulating our adaptive immune system to develop antigens. Vaccines deliver a small amount of the organisms that cause the disease, so most people don’t get sick – but their immune systems learn how to fight off the illness.
Listeria is a pathogen that can cause food poisoning. CRS-207, created by Aduro Biotech, Inc., uses special strains of listeria to deliver tumor antigens and stimulate your adaptive immune system. The hope is that, once activated, your killer T-cells will recognize mesothelioma cells as invaders and attack them.
In clinical trial NCT01675765, patients were given two doses of CRS-207 designed to deliver the antigen mesothelin, which is associated with mesothelioma tumors. This was followed by several cycles of chemotherapy. The chemotherapy drugs chosen for the study are two of the drugs most often prescribed for mesothelioma patients: pemetrexed and cisplatin (a platinum-based chemotherapy drug). This combination of chemotherapy drugs has been found to be more effective than either drug on its own.
Mesothelioma Immunotherapy Clinical Trial Preliminary Results
While this mesothelioma immunotherapy clinical trial isn’t over yet, the researchers have provided some preliminary results and they are promising. In April of 2016, the research team reported, in an article in the Journal of Thoracic Oncology, that 59% of participants had a positive response to the treatment. In another 35%, the disease had not progressed, which is a big victory for mesothelioma patients.
The early results also showed some positive changes in biomarkers that could indicate an immune response against the tumor. The side effects of the CRS-207 vaccine were not severe, another promising sign. If the final results show positive effects for this mesothelioma immunotherapy, researchers will conduct further clinical trials in an effort to bring a new mesothelioma treatment – and new hope – to more mesothelioma patients.