In a trial 94 per cent of mesothelioma patients responded to the drug which is designed to harness the body’s own immune system to fight the disease.
Dr Raffit Hassan, world leading expert on mesothelioma at the National Cancer Institute, in Bethesda, in the US, who led the research, said:
“This is a breakthrough and these preliminary results are very exciting. This is a very hard-to-treat disease.”
Mesothelioma kills almost 3,000 people a year and survival rates have not improved over recent years. In the study of 38 patients, 86 per cent had significant shrinkage of their tumours.
In almost 60 per cent tumours were reduced by more than 30 per cent and in 30 per cent of patients tumours shrank by an average of 80 per cent. In one patient the cancer completely disappeared.
The treatment, CRS-207, has now been granted orphan drug status by US drug regulators the Food and Drug Administration, which means it can be fast-tracked on to the market.
The drug is delivered in the form of an injection and is made up of a weakened, noninfectious version of the bacteria listeria.
Research shows the same protein expressed on mesothelioma cells is also present in ovarian, stomach and pancreatic cancers and trials are now underway to explore whether the same treatment technique could be used to treat these cancers too.
The daughter of a former teacher dying of a cancer caused by exposure to asbestos has launched a petition calling on the Government to act to protect pupils and staff.
Lucie Stephens’ mother Sue Stephens is fighting for her life after being diagnosed with mesothelioma. Now Lucie has launched an online petition calling for protection from exposure to asbestos in schools.
Mrs Stephens taught at schools in Buckinghamshire for more than 30 years and believes her cancer was caused by being exposed to asbestos in the workplace.