Senator Chuck Schumer Thanks the Mesothelioma Applied Research Foundation for its Work

At this year’s Meso Foundation Symposium, Senator Chuck Schumer, along with Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, Congresswoman Carolyn B. Maloney, Congressman Jerrold Nadler, Congressman Peter T. King, Congressman Charles B. Rangel, Congresswoman Nydia M. Velazquez, Congressman Michael G. Grimm and Congresswoman Yvette D. Clarke, was this year’s recipient of the Bruce Vento Hope Builder Award.

The award, presented annually at the Mesothelioma Applied Research Foundation’s Symposium and named for the late Minnesota Congressman who died from mesothelioma in 2000, acknowledges the support and initiatives of advocates whose work helps to eradicate mesothelioma and eliminate the suffering caused by it.

During the presentation of awards, Sen. Schumer spoke to the Meso Foundation constituents and thanked them for their important work in eradicating mesothelioma and ending the suffering caused by it.

Watch the Senator’s remarks here:

This bipartisan, bicameral group of New York legislators sponsored the original James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act of 2010 (HR 847) to amend the Public Health Service Act to extend and improve protections and services to individuals directly impacted by the terrorist attack in New York City on September 11, 2001, and for other purposes. This amendment added mesothelioma as a disease covered by the act.

Taking the Air

beach-walkby Laurie Kazan-Allen  

The American humorist Bill Bryson once remarked that Britain was the only country which recognized breathing as a leisure time activity. The idea of a seaside stroll to “take the air” persists to this day. It basically consists of walking up and down the promenade by the seaside breathing gusts of ozone-laden air. Nothing wrong with that, I say, especially if you manage to do so on a sunny summer’s day.

The very opposite of this health-inducing regime, however took place in the Italian town of Casale Monferrato. The dire consequences of living in an environment contaminated by the fallout from the local asbestos-cement factory was corroborated yet again in a paper published earlier this year entitled: Pleural mesothelioma: forecasts of the death toll in the area of Casale Monferrato, Italy. Over nearly eighty years, production at the Eternit plant spewed asbestos fibers into the atmosphere as a result of which thousands of people have contracted the asbestos cancer, mesothelioma. Scientists predict that a further 500+ inhabitants from this Piemonte town of 36,000 people will contract mesothelioma as a result of past exposures. Evidence documenting the tragic scale of environmentally-caused cases of mesothelioma is plentiful. From Ambler, Pennsylvania to Casale Monferrato from Kuruman, South Africa to Armley, England local people have paid with their lives for the asbestos industry’s profits.

Consider, if you will, the almost hysterical global reaction to the outbreak of swine flu in 2009. The World Health Organization reacted quickly, sending out a pandemic alert for the H1N1 virus and newspapers were full of dire warnings with governments stockpiling supplies of drugs such as Tamiflu and Relenza; the UK had enough medication for 33 million people! It has been estimated that 18,000 deaths occurred during the pandemic. And yet, there are no front-page articles about the tsunami of asbestos-related deaths which is causing more than 100,000 deaths every year. I don’t understand this; do you?

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 an asbestos hearing at 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 85+ issues of the British Asbestos Newsletter and in IBAS publications such as Eternit and the Great Asbestos Trial, Report on the Asian Asbestos Conference 2009, India’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

Recap of the Rally For Medical Research

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Dana Purcell, Robena Reid, Marlyn Landin, Eric Linthicum, Ivana Mihajlovic, and Jessica Barker raise awareness in their bright yellow Cure Meso t-shirts.

Last week, Meso Foundation staff and supporters represented the mesothelioma community in the Rally for Medical Research.  Nearly 200 organizations participated to raise awareness about the critical need for a sustained investment in the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to improve health, spur more progress, inspire more hope, and save more lives.  The Mesothelioma Applied Research Foundation is proud to have been a partner in this historic event.  The estimated 10,000 advocates included Meso Warriors, bereaved family members and Foundation staff.

Released the very same week following the Rally, President Obama’s budget request included an increase in the NIH’s budget.   Secretary Kathleen Sebelius noted “The significant new investments this budget contains for the NIH reflect our commitment to furthering the biomedical research that will help create good new jobs and advance the cause of medical science.”

Read more about the historic event here:

USA Today - Thousands rally to support medical research funding
Medpage Today - Rally Urges More Federal Research Dollars
About.com - The 2013 Rally for Medical Research in Washington D.C.
Medscape - Thousands Rally for Medical Research in Washington, DC
Nature News Blog - Medical researchers rally for funds in Washington DC
The Hill - Advocates, Lawmakers Rally For Medical Research Funding
GEN News - Today’s Rally for Medical Research

What Does the President’s Request for NIH Mean for Mesothelioma?

white-houseYesterday, the White House released the President’s budget proposal for Fiscal 2014, two months later than the usual release on the President’s Day holiday in February. The delay was caused in part by sequestration and Congress’ slow effort to provide funding for the remainder of 2013. The Mesothelioma Applied Research Foundation has strongly voiced its support of increased funding for the National Institutes of Health (NIH) which houses the National Cancer Institute that runs crucial mesothelioma clinical trails and funds mesothelioma research across the country.

In the President’s budget, Fiscal Year 2014 is funded at $31 billion, a 1.5 percent increase from 2012 funding levels. NIH estimates that it will spend $16.9 billion to support a total of 36,610 research project grants in 2014. If Congress decides to fund the NIH at the level the President has requested, we should expect to see approximately 23 mesothelioma grants from NIH in 2014. This is a triumph for the medical research community as it repairs some of the damage done by sequestration’s five percent cuts.

“The significant new investments this budget contains for the NIH reflect our commitment to furthering the biomedical research that will help create good new jobs and advance the cause of medical science,” Kathleen Sebelius, secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, said in a statement.

The President’s budget proposal sets his priorities for the year, but it is up to Congress to take this proposal and pass an appropriations bill that funds the federal government. The Meso Foundation will continue to follow the appropriations process and keep the community informed.

Read more on the White House website:
http://www.whitehouse.gov/blog/2013/04/10/president-obama-sends-congress-his-fiscal-year-2014-budget

Genetics and the BAP1 Gene in Mesothelioma

dnaBAP1 is the first gene discovered in mesothelioma. Not everyone has the mutated copy of this gene and, in fact, we are just embarking on trials to try to get a better handle on the incidence.

In germ line mutations (inherited mutation), the gene is thought to be extremely rare but has some interesting associations with uveal melanoma (melanoma of the eye), renal cell carcinoma (kidney cancer) and an unpigmented nevi (a skin lesion without color). It is thought that approximately 25% of mesothelioma patients will have somatic mutations (those that occur spontaneously).  We had an entire session devoted to this at the 2013 Symposium and the full presentation is included with this post.

So why is the BAP1 gene important outside of the research realm?

It is important because we now have a gene that is being researched by a number of studies, all looking to exploit this new discovery. Currently, the research goal of the BAP1 gene is for prevention and early detection of mesothelioma. For example, asbestos exposed individuals who carry this gene can be studied to determine if a cancer signal can be picked up before the development of mesothelioma. The idea is that if you have a germ line mutation, you and your immediate family will be screened for cancers associated with this gene in the hope of picking up an early malignancy. Also, researchers will study ways to turn off this gene, if defective.

To get an even better idea about the role that genetics play in mesothelioma, the article

Mystery cancer: Inside the villages of the damned

is an excellent read. Based on research by Dr. Michele Carbone, this article discusses the mesothelioma outbreaks in Turkey and their causes.