Immunotherapy treatment for mesothelioma has been made more widely available until March 2021 because of Covid-19

The type of treatment for someone suffering from mesothelioma will depend on the type of mesothelioma, on the stage of the mesothelioma, their general health and fitness and their personal preferences. There is more than one type of treatment. Immunotherapy is a form of treatment that helps the immune system to fight the mesothelioma and increases the ability of the body’s own immune defence system to destroy malignant cells. It  works in a different way to other treatments such as chemotherapy in that it targets the cancer cells whereas chemotherapy damages both healthy and cancerous cells.

What is immunotherapy?

Immunotherapy is administered directly into the vein and how often and for how long the patient receives it will depend on the drug given, how the patient’s body reacts and whether the treatment is working effectively and the side effects. Promising results have been reported in small early stage clinical trials in patients with mesothelioma  using Pembrolizumab and/or Nivolumab alone or in combination with Ipilibumab.

What has changed?

In normal circumstances there is no access to these treatments on the NHS outside of clinical trials. Furthermore treatment is very expensive and can comfortably exceed £100,000 pa.. However, the NHS announced on 3 August interim changes during Covid-19 which will remain in place until March 2021 and these include treatment for mesothelioma with the drug Nivolumab being approved by NICE as 2nd line treatment for mesothelioma. It may be administered instead of 2nd line chemotherapy to reduce the risk of immunosuppression. Nivolumab is less immunosuppressive and thereby mitigates the patient’s likelihood of contracting Covid-19. It may also be administered at home. In the current climate this is reassuring for patients with mesothelioma, who may not wish to leave their homes.
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