Complementary Cancer Therapies: Helpful or Hurtful?

pill_sackEvery year, consumers spend an estimated $40 billion on complementary and alternative medicine treatments and products, with hopes of miraculous cures, often unsupported by research or by science. Some consumers affected by life-threatening illnesses, including cancer, may approach the topic of supplements or alternative therapies as an added bonus without considering the side-effects or the interactions with their prescribed treatments. Complementary therapies can be very helpful in minimizing side-effects of traditional treatments and maximizing treatment results; but they should be considered and used carefully.

wesaAt this year’s New York “Knowledge is Hope” conference, presented by the Mesothelioma Applied Research Foundation, Kathleen Wesa, MD of Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, focused on complementary therapies used in conjunction with mainstream treatments for cancer patients. We listened to Dr. Wesa’s talk once before, at our 2009 Symposium, and have jotted down a few interesting points from her talk.

Cancer patients, in particular, should know that using complementary therapies  could interfere with, and in certain cases even destroy, the benefits of traditional treatment. Antioxidants such as Vitamin C, widely available in supplement form and aggressively marketed as “cancer fighters”, can actually prevent patients from fully benefiting from chemotherapy. In mesothelioma specifically, the one FDA-approved chemotherapy, Alimta, operates as an anti-folate. Overuse of the common “daily supplement,” folic acid, can actually block Alimta’s therapeutic benefit. This is a risk no mesothelioma patient should undertake blindly.

On the other hand, other complementary therapies used in conjunction with mainstream treatments have been found to be helpful. For example, for cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy, a study from the University of Rochester in New York has shown the effectiveness of ginger in relieving nausea.

Adding an exercise routine and paying close attention to nutrition have both been shown to greatly benefit cancer patients. The World Cancer Research Fund International recommends daily exercise in excess of 30 minutes and a diet prevalent in foods of plant origin, limiting sugary foods and drinks. Meditation, yoga, tai-chi and other “alternative” types of mind-body practices used by cancer patients also show benefits against pain, anxiety and insomnia.

The bottom line for mesothelioma patients: before shelling out money for the latest alternative or complementary “cure,” investigate carefully and consult with your physician or other medical expert. Dr. Wesa’s video presentation from our Symposium can be viewed here.

Suffolk County Legislature Recognizes Mesothelioma and Honors Mesothelioma Lifesavers with Special Proclamations

Presiding Officer Bill Lindsay with the “Life Savers” Drs. Lee Krug, Harvey Pass, Kenneth Rosenzweig and Mary Hesdorffer, NP.

Suffolk County on Long Island is the home to nearly 1.5 million people – a larger population than some states. Earlier this year, Bill Lindsay, Presiding Officer of the Suffolk County State Legislature announced he was diagnosed with pleural mesothelioma. Presiding Officer Lindsay and the legislature recognized Mesothelioma Awareness Day this year by issuing an official proclamation. They also presented special Lifesaver Proclamations to the Mesothelioma Applied Research Foundation; to the executive director of the Meso Foundation, Mary Hesdorffer, Nurse Practitioner; Dr. Lee Krug; Dr. Harvey Pass; and Dr. Ken Rosenzweig for their work in mesothelioma research and treatment.  The proclamations were presented at the Mesothelioma Applied Research Foundation’s conference on September 28, 2012 in New York City.

Like all mesothelioma warriors, Presiding Officer Lindsay was shocked when he received his diagnosis. His wife, Pat Lindsay, says that they “were so happy to have found the Meso Foundation so quickly,” and that Mary Hesdorffer, Nurse Practitioner quickly led them to experts in the field. “Bill had started chemo within two weeks of his diagnosis,” she continued.  He has since had an extrapleural pneumonectomy (EPP), four terms of chemotherapy and radiation.

Presiding Officer Lindsay started as an electrician right out of high school, worked his way through college and went on to earn a Master’s Degree in Labor Relations. He spent his career working with the building trades, as a business manager for the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 25. After he retired, he decided to pursue a career in public service, and began to serve in the Suffolk County Legislature in 2001, and was elected Presiding Officer in 2006. He has since served in this role and plans to continue during his treatment for mesothelioma.

5th Annual “Quartermania” – this Saturday in St. Charles, MO

This weekend, in St. Charles, Missouri, Shelly Kozicki will be hosting her 5th Annual “Quartermania. This year’s event, just like all previous ones, has completely sold out to a crowd looking forward to bidding, prizes, food and friendship.

If you’ve never attended a “Quartermania”, you may wonder just exactly what it might be. Basically, it’s a bidding contest in which you bid quarters on your favorite prizes (which you get to choose from a list of over a hundred). The game is fun because for as little as two quarters, or up to a maximum of eight quarters, you can win pretty much anything ranging from baseball tickets and restaurant gift certificates to week-long vacations. This year, available items include St. Louis Cardinals jerseys and 2013 tickets, $100 gift certificates to Macy’s, Saturday Night Live tickets, shatterproof and waterproof video cameras, LCD TV, Callaway Driver valued at $300.

This event generally attracts between 300-400 attendees annually, and their collective bids result in about $15,000 raised each year. Shelly works tirelessly for several months prior to the event, calling local and regional businesses, getting prizes from the auction, making the items look nice for the event, promoting the event and selling tickets, getting food and drink donated, and much (much!) more. But to Shelly, every minute spent working on Quartermania, is absolutely worth the end result.

Through Quartermanias and other fundraising efforts, Shelly has now raised nearly $250,000 for the Meso Foundation and its peer-reviewed mesothelioma research program. The dollars Shelly raised have already funded two mesothelioma research projects and she is now working on a third. One of these projects includes the study on “Targeting Mesothelin by Human Antibodies for Mesothelioma Treatment” conducted by Mitchell Ho, PhD, at the National Cancer Institute (NIH).

Shelly started fundraising in 2007. Tragically, she lost her husband, Craig, to mesothelioma in 2009, but she never stopped believing that a cure is possible. Nowadays, she dedicates her events to Craig’s memory and is inspired to continue her work by so many friends affected by mesothelioma whom she met through her events and the Meso Foundation. As she will tell you this Saturday, there is much more work to be done and she won’t be stopping until there is a cure. To support Shelly’s fundraising efforts, click here to make a donation.

The End of Canada’s Asbestos Reign of Terror?

by Laurie Kazan-Allen 

Closing in CanadaCanadian asbestos has poisoned American citizens for over one hundred years.[1] According to the United States Geological Survey from 1900: “The United States was the largest market for exported Canadian (asbestos) fiber.” It is therefore not unreasonable to suggest that the majority of asbestos-related disease in the U.S. was caused by exposure to Canadian asbestos.  Members of the Meso Foundation community have a particular interest in the operations of the Canadian asbestos mining industry. They know full well the tragic reality of mesothelioma and remain determined to see an end to the epidemic caused by occupational, domestic and environmental exposures. The news that Quebec’s support for this toxic industry has been withdrawn has been warmly welcomed by Meso Foundation’s executive director, Mary Hesdorffer, Nurse Practitioner, who said: “We are ecstatic to see the Canadian government acknowledge the overwhelming evidence that mesothelioma is caused by exposure to asbestos and put an end to asbestos mining in Quebec. ”  We expect that malignant mesothelioma will continue to increase in the developing world and the pressure is on the Foundation to fund the necessary research for prevention, early detection and more effective treatment strategies for those exposed to asbestos who go on to develop malignant mesothelioma.

Mary is not alone. All over the world ban asbestos campaigners have been watching developments in Canada very closely. For decades Canadian asbestos stakeholders, with financial and political support from the governments in Ottawa and Quebec, have orchestrated the global campaign to whitewash the image of asbestos. “Asbestos,” they said “could be used safely under controlled conditions;” the fact that these “controlled conditions” did not exist in Canada, the U.S., India or Thailand is a fact they omitted from the glossy brochures they produced and the evidence they provided. When the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) tried to implement a ban on asbestos in the U.S. in the mid-1980s, it was largely as a result of political pressure and legal action by Canadian vested interests that the ban was overturned. As a result, the use of asbestos remains legal in the U.S.

A review of recent developments in Canada is encouraging. In 2011, asbestos production in Canada ceased when the sole operational chrysotile (white) asbestos mine was exhausted. Plans to develop new open-pit mining facilities in Quebec had run into a financial snag; the private consortium backing the scheme could not attract investors. The Government of Quebec stepped in with a promise of a $58 million loan guarantee for the project. This support was condemned by citizens, doctors and public health professionals inside Quebec as well as campaigners outside the Province. On June 29, 2012, Quebec Premier Jean Charest announced that the $58 million loan guarantee had become an outright loan and that the agreement had now been signed. Some weeks later, Pauline Marois, who was engaged in a fierce campaign for the Premiership of Quebec, announced that her party would revoke the asbestos loan if they won the election. On September 4, the Parti Québécois won and Charest’s Liberals lost. As the new Premier, Marois confirmed her intention to revoke the loan and use the money to help the asbestos mining regions diversify their economy. Within days, the Canadian federal government also announced it was turning its back on the asbestos industry. Without such powerful allies, the future of the industry appears doomed but considering the years of twists and turns there have been, it would be unwise to be too sure too soon. For the moment, we hold our breath while we wait to see whether finally, after so many deaths and so much heartache, this truly is the end for Canada’s asbestos industry.


[1] Virta R. U.S. Geological Survey: Worldwide Asbestos Supply and Consumption Trends from 1900 to 2000. U.S. Department of the Interior.

About Laurie Kazan-Allen

Ms. Laurie Kazan-Allen has been researching, writing and campaigning on asbestos issues for more than twenty years. The British Asbestos Newsletter, the quarterly publication she founded in 1990, is widely regarded as one of the most authoritative contemporary sources of information by the UK community of asbestos activists. In collaboration with international colleagues, in 1999 she established The International Ban Asbestos Secretariat (IBAS). As the IBAS Coordinator she has organized and/or participated in asbestos events on six continents, amongst the most recent of which was the 2011 meeting in India of the Asian Ban Asbestos Network and the 2011 seminar: “Asbestos-Still a Killer” in the European Parliament. As an adviser to the UK All Party Parliamentary Asbestos Sub-Group, Ms. Kazan-Allen helps organize the annual Parliamentary asbestos seminar. Kazan-Allen has written prolifically about asbestos issues in 80+ issues of the British Asbestos Newsletter and in IBAS publications such as Eternit and the Great Asbestos Trial, Report on the Asian Asbestos Conference 2009India’s Asbestos Time Bomb and Killing the Future – Asbestos Use in Asia. These and other texts can be accessed on the websites: www.britishasbestosnewsletter.org and www.ibasecretariat.org On March 25, 2012, Ms. Kazan-Allen became the first non-Australian to receive the prestigious Emeritus Professor Eric G. Saint Memorial Award at a ceremony held in Perth, Western Australia.

The President Signs Continuing Resolution, Providing Funding for NIH through March 2013

obamaEarlier today, the President signed into law the continuing resolution (CR, H.J. Res. 117) providing funding for most government agencies, including the National Institutes of Health (NIH), at essentially Fiscal Year 2012-enacted levels through March 27, 2013. The legislation cleared the House, 329-19, on September 13 and the Senate, 62-30, on September 22.

This resolution does not avert sequestration, but it does stop a government shut down. Sequestration is still a very real threat that we need to worry about.

Congress has gone on recess until after the November 6 election without addressing sequestration, which will result in across-the-board cuts to federal defense and non-defense discretionary programs starting next year unless Congress acts to undo them. The Meso Foundation has joined the Coalition for Health Funding and the broader Non-Defense Discretionary (NDD) in signing a letter organized by the NDD United urging that Congress avert sequestration through a balanced approach to deficit reduction, which includes increases in revenues.

The White House press statement can be found at: http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2012/09/28/statement-press-secretary-hj-res-117-s-3245-and-s-3552

The text of the CR can be found at: http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/BILLS-112hjres117ih/pdf/BILLS-112hjres117ih.pdf

To read more about what the threat of sequestration means for mesothelioma research, read our blog post: http://curemeso.wordpress.com/2012/09/17/sequestration-to-cause-cuts-of-two-federally-funded-mesothelioma-research-grants/