Congress Exhibits Bi-partisan Support for NIH Funding in both House and Senate

Advocates on Capitol HillAs Congress works to map their federal spending for Fiscal Year 2015, advocacy organizations and members of Congress alike have been announcing their funding priorities for next year. The Meso Foundation has joined One Voice Against Cancer (OVAC) in asking for $32 billion in National Institutes of Health (NIH) funding, asking that Congress “end the erosion of cancer research funding.”

We are pleased to see that 186 members of the House, including 23 Republicans, support our funding request in a letter to the chairs and ranking members of both the full House Appropriations Committee and its Labor-HHS subcommittee. The letter, organized by Reps. David McKinley (R-W.Va.), Susan Davis (D-Calif.), Andre Carson (D-Ind.), and Peter King (R-N.Y.), requests that NIH receive “at least $32 billion” in FY 2015, stating:

We feel this amount is the minimum level of funding needed to reflect the rising costs associated with biomedical research. Full funding for NIH is critical if the agency is to continue to serve as the world’s preeminent medical research institution and our best hope for finding cures, improving treatments, and gaining a better understanding of the complex causes of diseases that affect millions of Americans….

The majority of the Senate (57 Senators, including 11 Republicans) signed a similar letter on April 3rd requesting the chairs and ranking members of the Senate Appropriations Committee and Labor-HHS subcommittee “maintain a strong commitment” to funding for NIH. While the letter organized by Bob Casey (D-PA) and Richard Burr (R-NC) does not mention a specific funding level for NIH, it urges appropriators “to consider the tremendous benefits of a sustained investment in the NIH.”

The Meso Foundation thanks these members of Congress for their public support of NIH funding.

Listen to the “Meet the Mesothelioma Experts” Session with Dr. Joanna C. Horobin

COMMAND trialThe most recent installment of the Meso Foundation’s “Meet the Mesothelioma Experts” series is now available for listening on our website. The session was held on April 8 with Dr. Joanna C. Horobin, the Chief Medical Officer at Verastem, Inc. Dr. Horobin discussed the company’s latest investigational agent, defactinib, which is being developed for use in patients with pleural mesothelioma.

During the call, Dr. Horobin was interviewed by Mary Hesdorffer, the Meso Foundation’s executive director and experienced nurse practitioner. The session focused on learning more about investigational agent defactinib, which is used to delay the time to progression after having a response or stabilization with first-line therapy.

Dr. Joanna C. Horobin, M.B., Ch.B, has been the Chief Medical Officer at Verastem, Inc. since October 2012.

You can listen to the session with Dr. Horobin, as well as past “Meet the Mesothelioma Experts” session here.

GUEST BLOG: First Steps to Starting an Exercise Program

Joggingby Carol Michaels

Exercise may be the furthest thing from your mind after a cancer diagnosis. Even if you have never been active, exercise can become one of your favorite activities. Ask your doctor before you start to exercise because each person is unique and heals differently. With more medical professionals recommending exercise to their patients, it is imperative for cancer survivors to learn how to exercise safely. A good exercise program will help to reduce the side effects of surgery and treatments. These side effects can include fatigue, neuropathy, decreased range of motion, weakness, lymphedema, and a significant emotional toll. Once you start to exercise and have less pain, stiffness and more energy, you will be motivated to continue.

Exercise may reduce the chance of recurrence, and it is therefore more important than ever to add exercise to your recovery plan. For those who have been active prior to their diagnosis, this is great news. A good exercise program will help you to get back to the activities that you enjoy. For the cancer survivors who have been inactive, it is never too late to start an exercise program. Work with an experienced cancer exercise specialist in your area or purchase cancer exercise books and DVD’s. This will give you the tools that you need to get started in an exercise program that is part of a healthy lifestyle.

Before You Begin
You will need to speak to your health professional before beginning an exercise program. Your particular surgery, treatments, fitness level and healing speed will guide the progression of the exercises. Your health and recovery process is always changing and it will be important to regularly monitor your blood count, muscle and joint pain, nausea, and fatigue. You may also have lingering impairments or health concerns that need to be evaluated by a physical therapist or lymphedema therapist.

You should meet with your oncologist to review the exact nature of your treatments so that you will understand the potential side effects of your treatments. This way you will be able to understand your exercise plan in relation to your unique situation. Some medications affect balance, and cardiac function, or increase the risk of dehydration. It is crucial that you understand the health issues you may encounter as a consequence of your surgery or treatment. This will include learning which muscles are affected, which lymph nodes are removed, and the cardiac and pulmonary effects of radiation and chemotherapy.

Exercise Goals
Goals should be specific and realistic. You may want to lose weight and increase your muscle mass. If flexibility is an issue, your goal may be to improve your range of motion. Other goals might be to become stronger, have a good quality of life, better mood, or to decrease the chance of recurrence.

It is helpful to have both short term and long term exercise goals. Goals should be able to be adapted to changes in work, health, and family situations. If you are new to exercise, select an activity and set an achievable goal.  Slowly add exercise to your daily activities and find something that works with your lifestyle.

Remember: Think positive and have fun!

Exercising During Chemotherapy and Radiation
It seems counterintuitive, but exercise during treatment is shown to be helpful. Physical activity during treatment can reduce common side effects such as fatigue, pain, nausea, depression or anxiety. If you are suffering from pain and nausea you should have those issues under control before beginning. Your doctor will be able to tell you how often you should exercise and how intense your program should be.

Each treatment is unique and has potentially debilitating side effects of which you should be aware.

Systemic treatments such as chemotherapy and hormonal therapy as well as targeted, biological and immunotherapies may impact your balance, cardiac function, and gastro-intestinal tract. Furthermore, they may lead to neuropathy or numbness in your extremities. Radiation can cause fatigue and increases the risk of lymphedema. It can also cause swelling and burning of the skin.

First Steps
Try to start moving as soon as possible after surgery, even if it is only walking indoors. This will help you to regain strength. If you had been inactive prior to surgery, start with short walks and increase the distance walked each time. You can also increase the frequency of the walks as you slowly increase the distance. Try to find a walking buddy and walk often. Build up strength slowly and make sure never to over do it. Just 15 minutes a day can improve your energy level and mood.

Incorporate aerobic activity into your fitness plan. Find the aerobic activity – one that increases your heart and breathing rate – that you enjoy and try to do it daily. Aerobic activity is an important component of a fitness plan and includes activities like walking, hiking, and dancing.


Carol Michaels FitnessCarol Michaels is a cancer exercise specialist and creator of the Recovery Fitness cancer exercise program. Recovery Fitness is taking place at Morristown Medical Center and several other facilities in New Jersey. Michaels also wrote “Exercise for Cancer Survivors,” a resource for cancer patients going through surgery and treatment.

Hypnosis Therapy may Decrease Fatigue in Mesothelioma Patients

RelaxationIt was recently reported that a clinical trial that randomized patients to receive hypnosis and cognitive therapy had a statistically significant reduction in their fatigue levels as compared to 79 percent of patients who did not have this intervention. The sudy was led by Guy Montgomery, PhD, Director of the Integrative Behavioral Medicine Program at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York.

Two hundred breast cancer patients who were undergoing radiation therapy were eligible to participate in this study. It was unusual to find that six months after the completion of radiation therapy, the intervention group reported less fatigue than 95% of the control group (patients who did not receive hypnosis and cognitive therapy). Mesothelioma patients often receive radiation therapy following the completion of an extrapleural pneumonectomy (EPP) or a Pleurectomy Decortication (PD). Though there are no studies currently underway in mesothelioma, it seems reasonable that patients who will be undergoing surgery plus radiation should be put in touch with integrative medicine to ascertain what services might be available to them.

A few years back, we invited a hypnotherapist to conduct a workshop at the Meso Foundation’s Symposium to aid the community in banishing negative thoughts usually implanted during the initial diagnosis when they were informed of the disease and prematurely provided with a prognosis from a doctor unfamiliar with mesothelioma. A positive outlook certainly does not cure the disease, but patients who are positive tend to eat better, engage with others, and less often fall victim to depression, which could impact their ability to function.

The study, recently published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology (2014; doi:10.1200/JCO.2013.49.3437

Meet the Mesothelioma Experts: Defactinib, a New Investigational Agent for Mesothelioma

command1On April 8 at 9 PM Eastern time, the Mesothelioma Applied Research Foundation (Meso Foundation) will hold a new installment of its ‘Meet the Experts’ series, featuring Dr. Joanna C. Horobin, the Chief Medical Officer at Verastem, Inc., who will discuss the company’s latest investigational agent, defactinib, which is being developed for use in patients with pleural mesothelioma. Those interested in attending via telephone can RSVP by visiting http://www.curemeso.org/experts.

Dr. Horobin will be interviewed by Mary Hesdorffer, Meso Foundation’s executive director and experienced nurse practitioner. The goal of this “Meet the Experts” installment is to learn more about this novel agent, the purpose of which is to delay the time to progression after having a response or stabilization with first-line therapy. Currently, defactinib is available only through its clinical trial.

Dr. Horobin, M.B., Ch.B. has been the Chief Medical Officer at Verastem, Inc. since October 2012.

The Meet the Experts series is a live podcast created by the Meso Foundation with the goal of providing patients, their family members, and other interested parties with the most up-to-date information on mesothelioma treatment and research, directly from the physicians pioneering these advances. Past teleconferences have featured:

Dr. Lee Krug – Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center
Dr. Dan Sterman – University of Pennsylvania
Dr. Raffit Hassan – National Cancer Institute
Dr. Julie Brahmer – Johns Hopkins
Dr. Tobias Peikert – Mayo Clinic
Dr. Joseph Friedberg – University of Pennsylvania
Dr. Valerie Rusch – Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center
Melissa Culligan, RN – University of Pennsylvania

The topics, which have included immunotherapy, gene therapy, drugs, clinical trials, and biomarkers, are usually discussed through an informal interview, focusing on questions important to patients, in particular. Listeners are encouraged to ask questions while listening to the call.