Breakthrough Drug Offers New Hope in the Fight Against Mesothelioma


Mesothelioma, a rare form of cancer historically linked to asbestos exposure, has long cast a shadow over the lives of workers in at-risk occupations involving construction, pipefitting, insulation, and other industrial and building trades. Notorious for poor prognoses and having no known cure, it’s been a devastating diagnosis for millions of Americans, many of whom were exposed to asbestos decades ago.

But a new groundbreaking drug – pegargiminase (ADI-PEG20) – is being hailed as a breakthrough that could change the game for victims and families wrestling with this formidable disease.

What is Mesothelioma?

For those unfamiliar, mesothelioma is a rare cancer for which the only known cause is asbestos exposure (specifically, the inhalation or ingestion of microscopic asbestos fibers). While it can affect various parts of the body such as the heart, abdominal cavity, or testicles, it primarily affects the lining of the lungs, known as the pleura.

Because asbestos was used widely in building and industrial applications for much of the 20th century, occupational exposure (being exposed to asbestos on the job) is the leading risk factor for developing mesothelioma. However, the disease has also been known to result from secondary exposure (which typically affects families who live with asbestos-exposed workers) and from exposure to naturally occurring asbestos in the environment.

Mesothelioma is also a notoriously difficult disease to beat. Although mesothelioma accounts for a relatively small number of cases, with about 3,000 diagnoses annually according to the American Cancer Society, its prognosis is grim. A mere 12.5% of those diagnosed with pleural mesothelioma survive beyond five years. This has bolstered the urgency of finding more effective treatments, and the hopeful optimism that’s swirling around a new promising drug.

What We Know About Pegargiminase (ADI-PEG20)

As reported by Forbes, the drug at the forefront of this optimism is pegargiminase, also known as ADI-PEG20, a formulation that leverages enzyme technology to combat the cancer cells' metabolism.

The principle behind pegargiminase's function is surprisingly simple. It works by depleting the amino acid arginine, which is critical for the survival and multiplication of mesothelioma cells that cannot produce arginine independently. This translates to a targeted approach that 'starves' the cancer cells while sparing the healthy ones.

And according to the findings of a recent phase 3 clinical trial for pegargiminase, it’s quite effective.

The study, which was published in JAMA Oncology, involved 249 participants from five different countries who had been diagnosed with pleural mesothelioma, the most common form of the disease, and who were treated with either pegargiminase or a placebo drug and conventional chemotherapy. As the study notes, pegargiminase-treated patients were 4x as likely to be alive after three years compared to patients who received a placebo.

Professor Peter Szlosarek of Queen Mary’s Barts Cancer Institute, an architect of this research, hailed ADI-PEG20 as a life-improving measure for patients. Its wider applications in treating soft tissue cancers and certain brain cancers are also under close scientific scrutiny.

Legal Assistance for Mesothelioma Victims

The legal landscape for mesothelioma victims is entwined firmly with their medical and emotional battles, and often requires them to navigate unfamiliar processes in the search for justice and compensation.

Recognizing the need for specialized legal support, our team at SWMW Law has devoted much of our practice to fighting for mesothelioma victims and their families across the country. This includes helping victims evaluate their options for pursuing claims filed with special trusts established by asbestos companies that went out of business or reorganized under U.S. bankruptcy law, or civil personal injury and wrongful death claims against solvent companies that negligently exposed victims to asbestos.

If you have questions about your rights and legal options after being diagnosed with mesothelioma, we want to help. SWMW Law proudly serves victims and families nationwide and offers FREE consultations. Call (855) 744-1922 or contact us online to speak with a lawyer.