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Keywords:

  • anticancer immune response;
  • chemotherapy;
  • immunotherapy;
  • malignant mesothelioma

Abstract

Whether the immune system can recognize malignant and premalignant cells and eliminate them to prevent the development of cancer is still a matter of open debate, but in our view, the balance of evidence favours this concept. Nonetheless, the International Agency for Research on Cancer has now predicted that cancer will overtake heart disease as the leading cause of death worldwide by 2010, showing that this protective mechanism often fails. Malignant mesothelioma has traditionally been considered a relatively non-immunogenic cancer. However, mesothelioma cells do express a set of well-defined tumour antigens that have been shown to engage with the host immune system. Mesothelioma should therefore be considered a target for immunotherapy. A variety of anticancer immunotherapies have been investigated in mesothelioma and in other malignancies, although these have been largely ineffective when used in isolation. Over recent years, there has been increasing interest in the possibility of combining immunotherapy with chemotherapy in the fight against cancer. Here, we discuss the rationale behind combining these two, long considered antagonistic, treatment options in the context of malignant mesothelioma.