JCO Oncology Practice 2021 September 7 [Link]
Anna K Nowak, Alannah Jackson, Calvin Sidhu
The management of pleural mesothelioma has changed with the demonstration that first-line checkpoint blockade therapy improves survival. This review covers issues of relevance to the practicing medical oncologist, with an emphasis on the palliative setting and on new information. Until recently, standard systemic therapy for mesothelioma was combination chemotherapy with platinum and pemetrexed. In 2020, combination immunotherapy with ipilimumab and nivolumab was approved as first-line systemic therapy for mesothelioma following release of the results from the CheckMate 743 trial. This trial showed improved overall survival for patients receiving ipilimumab and nivolumab over those treated with platinum and pemetrexed chemotherapy. When the survival results were examined by histologic subtype, the survival benefit was most significant in those with nonepithelioid mesothelioma, a group for which combination immunotherapy is now standard of care. The most important outstanding issue from CheckMate-743 is a better understanding, through translational studies, of which patients with epithelioid mesothelioma may benefit from combination immunotherapy. The next generation of first-line clinical trials in mesothelioma will report the results of first-line combination chemoimmunotherapy. For those patients who receive first-line dual checkpoint blockade, there is no evidence as to the efficacy of subsequent chemotherapy. However, given the known first-line efficacy of cisplatin or carboplatin and pemetrexed, combination chemotherapy is an appropriate subsequent choice for those who progress on or after dual immunotherapy. For those who previously received chemotherapy without immunotherapy, single-agent nivolumab provides benefit over best supportive care. In summary, both chemotherapy and immunotherapy should be considered for all patients during their disease course. Another topical issue is the growing appreciation that some individuals have an inherited predisposition to mesothelioma; referral to a clinical geneticist should be considered under some circumstances. The role of surgery and multimodality therapy is controversial, with results awaited from the fully recruited MARS-2 clinical trial. Patient selection, staging, and multidisciplinary review are critical to identify those who might benefit from a multimodality approach. Finally, a proactive, multidisciplinary approach to symptom management and the principles of management of pleural effusions are critical to manage the symptom burden of mesothelioma and optimize patient well-being.