A trial of intra-pleural bacterial immunotherapy in malignant pleural mesothelioma (TILT) – a randomised feasibility study using the trial within a cohort (TwiC) methodology

Pilot & Feasibility Studies 2022 September 3 [Link]

Anna C Bibby, Natalie Zahan-Evans, Emma Keenan, Charles Comins, John E Harvey, Helen Day, Najib M Rahman, Janet E Fallon, Rachael Gooberman-Hill, Nick A Maskell


Background: Malignant pleural mesothelioma (MPM) is an aggressive thoracic malignancy with a poor prognosis. Systemic immunotherapy is an effective frontline treatment for MPM, and there is a scientific rationale supporting the possible efficacy of local, i.e. intra-pleural immune modulators. Trial of intra-pleural bacterial immunotherapy (TILT) investigated the feasibility of performing a randomised trial of intra-pleural bacterial immunotherapy in people with MPM, using the trials within cohorts (TwiC) methodology.

Methods: TILT was a multicentre, three-armed, randomised, feasibility TwiC of intra-pleural OK432, BCG, or usual care in people with MPM. Eligible participants were identified from within the ASSESS-meso study, a prospective, longitudinal, observational cohort study, and were randomly selected to be offered a single dose of OK432 or BCG, via an indwelling pleural catheter. The primary outcome was feasibility, evaluated against prespecified recruitment, attrition and data completeness targets. The acceptability of trial processes and interventions was assessed during qualitative interviews with participants and family members at the end of the trial. TILT was registered prospectively on the European Clinical Trials Registry (EudraCT number 2016-004,727-23) and the ISRCTN Register on 04 December 2017.

Results: Seven participants were randomised from a planned sample size of 12; thus, the 66% recruitment rate target was not met. Two participants withdrew after randomisation, breaching the pre-stated attrition threshold of 10%. It was not possible to maintain blinding of control participants, which negated a fundamental tenet of the TwiC design. The trial processes and methodology were generally acceptable to participants and relatives, despite several recipients of intra-pleural bacterial agents experiencing significant local and systemic inflammatory responses.

Conclusion: It was possible to design a clinical trial of an investigational medicinal product based on the TwiC design and to obtain the necessary regulatory approvals. However, whilst acceptable to participants and relatives, the TwiC design was not a feasible method of investigating intra-pleural bacterial immunotherapy in people with MPM. Future trials investigating this topic should consider the eligibility constraints and recruitment difficulties encountered.