Are Mesothelioma Survival Rates Improved with Immunotherapy?

Posted on behalf of Peter T. Nicholl in Mesothelioma & Asbestos Published on December 7, 2021 and updated on March 15, 2022.

green book about immunotherapyMany symptoms of mesothelioma are also symptoms of other conditions, which is part of the reason this condition often goes undiagnosed until it reaches the later stages. By the time many are diagnosed with pleural mesothelioma, surgery is no longer an option.

For patients in this situation, there are some new treatment options that have shown promise in potentially improving survival rates. One of those options is immunotherapy, which some studies have shown may improve survival rates.

Below, our Maryland-based mesothelioma attorneys discuss how immunotherapy works, the benefits, and the different types of immunotherapy doctors may be able to use. If you were diagnosed with mesothelioma, our attorneys may be able to help you seek compensation. An employer, asbestos company or other entity may be liable for you being exposed to asbestos, which is the number one cause of mesothelioma.

How Immunotherapy Works to Treat Mesothelioma

Your body’s immune system usually recognizes foreign cells and attacks them. The problem with mesothelioma tumors is that they grow quickly, and they spread, or metastasize, very quickly. This overwhelms the immune system, and it is harder for your immune system to attack the tumor.

The purpose of immunotherapy is to boost the immune system and improve its ability to target and fight mesothelioma cells. Immunotherapy is often called a targeted treatment because it only attacks cancer cells and does not damage healthy cells.

There are two main types of immunotherapy: passive immunotherapy and active immunotherapy. Passive immunotherapy uses lab-created compounds to attack mesothelioma tumors. Active immunotherapy directly stimulates the immune system to attack mesothelioma cells. Antigens are injected into patients to spark the immune system to attack cancer cells.

Benefits of This Treatment

Research has shown many patients have improved survival rates after receiving immunotherapy, particularly when this treatment is combined with surgery and/or chemotherapy.

Another significant advantage of this treatment is there are fewer side effects. Since immunotherapy does not attack healthy cells, patients experience a lot fewer side effects, especially compared to chemotherapy and radiation. This allows patients who are already in poor health to receive treatment. Some patients who are in poor health cannot do much chemotherapy or radiation.

Immunotherapy Side Effects

It is important to note immunotherapy still has side effects, but they are often not as bad as the side effects caused by chemotherapy or radiation.

What are the Different Types of Immunotherapy?

There are several types of immunotherapy that fall under passive or active immunotherapy. One common type is monoclonal antibodies. These are molecules created to stop the growth of mesothelioma tumors. Monoclonal antibodies can work in a few ways:

  • Limiting the ability of mesothelioma cells to spread to other parts of the body
  • Finding and destroying cancer cells
  • Giving cancer-killing medicine to cancer cells

Other types of immunotherapy include:

Immune Checkpoint Inhibitors

This is an active type of immunotherapy that can help prevent mesothelioma cells from inhibiting the T-cells in the patient’s immune system. This can help ensure the immune system reacts properly to the cancer cells.

Some checkpoint inhibitors create a wall between PD-1 and PD-L1. This either prevents binding or breaks it, allowing your T-cells to defend you from cancer cells. If PD-1 and PD-L1 bind together, your T-cells may ignore mesothelioma cells.

There are also checkpoint inhibitors for CTLA-4 and B7. CTLA-4 is an immune cell receptor and B7 is a mesothelioma cell protein.


Cytokines are proteins that may be grown in a lab. They are meant to help increase immune response to cancer cells. While some cytokines help your immune system cells grow faster, others help your body to resist cancer cells.

Cancer Vaccines

These vaccines carry mesothelioma antigens, allowing the patient’s immune system to recognize this antigen as a signal for mesothelioma. That way, the immune system knows to attack cells that carry that antigen.

Adoptive T Cell Transfer

Doctors remove some of your T-cells and make modifications to make them stronger. Then these cells are given back to the patient to help strengthen their immune system’s response to cancer.

Some researchers are testing a T-cell transfer treatment that uses blood cells that were grown in a lab. They are designed to target the protein mesothelin that is often present in cancers like mesothelioma.

Oncolytic Viruses

These viruses deliver an antigen to cause a reaction in the immune system. These viruses attack diseased cells, which causes the release of antigens and a response by the patient’s immune system. This treatment combines immunotherapy and virotherapy, which makes this active immunotherapy.

Call Today to Schedule a Free Legal Consultation

Our attorneys have been assisting mesothelioma victims for decades and have secured millions on their behalf. We have extensive knowledge of how to validate a mesothelioma case, including investigating, valuing damages and establishing liability.

Schedule a free legal consultation today to determine how we may be able to assist you. We know this is a difficult time and hiring an attorney can be an important step for victims and their families.

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