Happy New Year! As 2021 begins, there are many promising things to look forward to in the mesothelioma community and in the world.
As COVID-19 defined 2020 and introduced us all to social distancing, quarantining, PPE, and face masks. Hopefully 2021 will be defined by vaccinations and a return to our new normal. Lessons have been learned and lives have been changed.
As we reflect on the year 2020 in the mesothelioma community, there was some progress made in various aspects of treatment for patients with malignant mesothelioma. The continued effort to ban asbestos, the mineral that causes 80-85 percent of all diagnosis of mesothelioma, continued.
This banning effort was led by Linda Reinstein and the Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization who have worked tirelessly on this issue for many years. In 2020, the legislation – named for Linda’s husband – progressed further than ever before in the Congress. A total of 67 countries worldwide have banned asbestos. Hopefully with a new administration and continued efforts, 2021 will be the year that we get it done and make it 68 countries.
The year 2020 also saw the approval by the FDA of new therapy for the treatment of malignant mesothelioma. Not since 2004, with the approval of Cisplatin and Pembrolizumab, has a new drug regime been approved by the FDA for the systemic treatment of malignant mesothelioma. The two immunological drugs that were approved for treatment are Opdiva (nivolumab) and Yervoy (ipilimumab), each approved as systemic therapy for mesothelioma. Both are monoclonal antibodies that when combined decrease tumor growth by enhancing T-cell function. These two immunotherapy drugs have been proven to lengthen survival as compared to standard chemotherapy.
Ongoing research has also opened up some interesting future implications for treatment. In Europe, researchers discovered a link of possibly using statins with immunotherapy for better results and increasing survival. The speed of the development of a vaccine for COVID-19 is also a positive for further research implications.
We are looking forward to a year full of possibilities and progress towards a cure. Welcome to 2021!