ACTION ALERT: Request Support for Increased Research Funding

action_alertDear supporter of mesothelioma research.

We need your help!

In March, Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney (D-NY) developed a formal letter requesting the U.S. House of Representatives Appropriations Committee Defense Subcommittee dedicate $40 million for the Peer-Reviewed Cancer Research Program (PRCRP) in the Fiscal Year 2015 Defense Appropriations bill. The $40 million represents a $15 million increase over the 2014 level for the PRCRP. Mesothelioma is one of the cancers eligible to compete for funding under this program.

Since then, the Senate Appropriations Committee passed a funding level of $50 million for the PRCRP, which would double the program’s 2014 level. Representative Maloney is now requesting that the House Appropriations Defense Subcommittee agree to the Senate level for the program in conference on the final version of the Fiscal 2015 Defense Appropriations bill. This is the bill that will go to the President to be signed into law.

If the Congress agrees to the $50 million for the PRCRP, it would represent a significant increase in funding for all applicable cancers, including Defense-funded mesothelioma research.

A “Dear Colleague” email went out last week, urging support. So far, the letter has been signed by Representatives Michael Fitzpatrick (R-PA), Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC), Charlie Rangel (D-NY), Sander Levin (D-MI), and Collin Peterson (D-MN). Additional support for this is critical!

Please take a moment to contact your House representative to request they sign on.

Look up your elected officials’ phone numbers.

Here is what you say:

Hi, my name is _________ and I am a constituent of Congressman/woman _________. I am calling to request for your boss to sign on to a Dear Colleague letter circulated by Congresswoman Maloney in support of $50 million in cancer research funding in the defense budget that has already been passed by the Senate committee.

Thank you!

Update on the Deadliest Cancers Caucus

The Meso Foundation encourages mesothelioma advocates to contact their Representative about the Congressional Caucus on the Deadliest Cancers.On May 8, a Dear Colleague letter was sent out by the founding co-chairs of the newly established Congressional Caucus on the Deadliest Cancers to invite other Representatives to join the Caucus. According to the Dear Colleague letter, the Caucus was created “Because almost half of all cancer deaths in the U.S. are attributable to one of the deadliest cancers, it’s imperative that we monitor implementation and what, if any, additional steps Congress should take to address these most lethal cancers.” The caucus was founded by Representatives Leonard Lance (R-NJ), Anna Eshoo (D-CA), Dave Reichert(R-WA), and Henry Waxman (D-CA).

We asked meso advocates to contact their Representatives to ask them to join this important Caucus. There are now 20 members, which is a direct result of the advocacy efforts of the Meso Foundation and the other members of the Deadliest Cancers Coalition. Thank you to all of the mesothelioma advocates that took the time to contact their Representatives!

The Coalition also planned a June 19 briefing about the bipartisan Caucus, which was attended by more than 100 Congressional staffers. Meso Foundation Director of Government Affairs Jessica Barker attended the standing room only briefing.

Below, you will find a list of the current Caucus members. Don’t see your Representative on the list? It’s not too late! Visit our Action Center now to ask your Rep to join this important effort!

Current Members
Rep. Matt Salmon (AZ-5) – June 18, 2014
Rep. Anna Eshoo (CA-18) – May 2, 2014
Rep. Zoe Lofgren (CA-19) – June 19, 2014
Rep. Adam Schiff (CA-28) – June 18, 2014
Rep. Henry Waxman (CA-33) – May 2, 2014
Rep. Alan Lowenthal (CA-47) – June 23, 2014
Rep. Joe Courtney (CT-2) – June 19, 2014
Rep. Tom Latham (IA-3) – June 19, 2014
Rep. Joe Kennedy (MA-4) – June 19, 2014
Rep. Ann Wagner (MO-2) – June 19, 2014
Rep. Carol Shea-Porter (NH-1) – June 19, 2014
Rep. Leonard Lance (NJ-07) – May 2, 2014
Rep. Rush Holt (NJ-12) – June 19, 2014
Rep. Carolyn Maloney (NY-12) – June 18, 2014
Rep. Steve Stivers (OH-15) – June 19, 2014
Rep. Allyson Schwartz (PA-13) – June 19, 2014
Rep. Joseph Pitts (PA-16) – June 18, 2014
Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (RI) – June 9, 2014
Rep. Michael Burgess (TX-26) – June 19, 2014
Rep. Dave Reichert (WA-08) – May 2, 2014

Learn more about the Meso Foundation’s advocacy efforts and how you can get involved at curemeso.org.

The Meso Foundation Applauds the Newly Formed Deadliest Cancers Caucus

Deadliest Cancers Caucus forms in Congress.On May 8, a Dear Colleague letter was sent out by the founding co-chairs of the newly established Congressional Caucus on the Deadliest Cancers to invite other Representatives to join the Caucus. The caucus, founded by Representative Leonard Lance (R-NJ), Anna Eshoo (D-CA), Dave Reichert (R-WA), and Henry Waxman (D-CA), described its purpose by stating that “because almost half of all cancer deaths in the U.S. are attributable to one of the deadliest cancers, it’s imperative that we monitor implementation and what, if any, additional steps Congress should take to address these most lethal cancers.”

The Meso Foundation applauds the formation of the Caucus. “We are so pleased to see the formation of the Deadliest Cancers Caucus in the House,” said Mary Hesdorffer, expert nurse practitioner and the executive director of the Meso Foundation. “Congress has recognized the need to do more for the most lethal cancers, and we are anxious to see progress. We will continue to dialogue with the Caucus and support them in any way we can.”

We would like to encourage you to request that your respective Congressional Representatives sign on to the letter. The request can be made by filling out a form at curemeso.org.

First Congressional Cancer Hearing in Six Years a Success

Congressional Cancer Research Hearing

by Jessica Barker, Director of Government Affairs, Mesothelioma Applied Research Foundation

Wednesday afternoon, the Senate Special Committee on Aging held a hearing on cancer research featuring Dr. Harold Varmus, Director of the National Cancer Institute (NCI) and actress Valerie Harper, a survivor of Leptomeningeal carcinomatosis (LC), a rare complication of cancer in the brain. This was the first Congressional hearing with a dedicated focus on cancer in six years. The hearing, titled The Fight Against Cancer: Challenges, Progress, and Promise examined federal funding for cancer research and recent treatment improvements, and explored challenges facing survivors and scientists.

The hearing gave each of the five witnesses the opportunity to give testimony, which was followed by questions from the Members of the Committee. The witnesses included:

  • Harold E. Varmus, MD, Director, National Cancer Institute, National Institutes of Health
  • Valerie Harper, Actress and Cancer Survivor
  • Thomas Sellers, PhD, MPH, Director, H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center and Research Institute
  • Mary Dempsey, Assistant Director and Co-Founder, The Patrick Dempsey Center for Cancer Hope and Healing
  • Chip Kennett, Advocate and Cancer Survivor

Each witness gave a powerful opening statement. Valerie Harper urged Members of Congress to think of cancer research dollars as an investment rather than spending. Ms. Harper also voiced a hopeful message for cancer patients, as she is positive and living life to the fullest despite her prognosis, stating “I am not going to the funeral until the day of the funeral!”

While not mentioned in his testimony, Dr. Varmus was asked by Senator Kelly Ayotte (R-NH) about the Department of Defense’s (DoD) Congressionally Directed Medical Research Program (CDMRP). The CDMRP has been a great source of funding for mesothelioma, funding $9.3 million to date. Asked if the DoD and the NCI collaborated, Dr. Varmus emphasized that all of the federal agencies that do medical research, as well as all researchers around the country share their research through scientific meetings (such as the Meso Foundation’s Symposium) and through journals. When specifically asked if he thought the program should be in the DoD or under the umbrella of the National Institutes of Health (which houses the NCI), he stated that he does not have a problem with the CDMRP being housed at the DoD and that he welcomes co-funding.

Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D- RI) asked Dr. Varmus about the Recalcitrant Cancer Act of 2012 and its progress. Dr. Varmus told the committee that he had completed the scientific framework for pancreatic cancer, and that he would be completing the scientific framework for small cell lung cancer by the statutory deadline of July 2014. This is good news for the mesothelioma community.

To view the hearing, please visit the Senate Special Committee on Aging website.

Meso Warrior Bruce Jackson Presents Congresswoman Betty McCollum with the Bruce Vento Hope-Builder Award

Dodds, McCollum, and JacksonOn April 23, 2014, mesothelioma warrior Bruce Jackson presented Congresswoman Betty McCollum with the Bruce Vento Hope-Builder Award for sending a letter to Dr. Harold Varmus, Director of the National Cancer Institute (NCI), to urge the NCI to further mesothelioma research. The Bruce Vento Hope-Builder Award is presented each year to an individual or individuals who create hope for meso warriors and their loved ones through advocacy.

In February, U.S. Congresswomen Betty McCollum (D-MN) led the effort to send a letter to Dr. Harold Varmus, urging him to create a scientific framework for mesothelioma to progress research. Representative McCollum recruited eighteen of her colleagues from both sides of the aisle to join her in sending the letter. The Mesothelioma Applied Research Foundation (Meso Foundation) has long advocated for the National Cancer Institute to increase their focus on mesothelioma, and Representative McCollum has been a stalwart champion for the cause. Representative McCollum advocates for mesothelioma in honor of her predecessor, Bruce Vento. Bruce Vento was a prominent member of Congress who, after nearly 24 years of service, succumbed to mesothelioma only eight months after diagnosis.

“I’m honored to represent the Meso Foundation community in awarding the Bruce Vento Hope-Builder Award to Rep. Betty McCollum. It’s good people like Rep. McCollum who give people like me hope for the future,” said Bruce Jackson. He added, “I have more music to make! And I’m not going down without a fight!”

Bruce Jackson, a native Minnesotan, was diagnosed with peritoneal mesothelioma in June of 2008. His doctor at the time told him to “Google it” because he knew nothing about the cancer, only that it was “terminal.” The online search for mesothelioma led Bruce and his girlfriend Beth Dodds to the Mesothelioma Applied Research Foundation. Mary Hesdorffer, Executive Director of the Meso Foundation, had them on a plane within 2 weeks of diagnosis to attend the Meso Foundation’s International Symposium on Malignant Mesothelioma in Washington, D.C., where they learned everything about this cancer.

In August of 2008, Bruce had surgery to remove his omentum and received the Hyperthermic Intraperitoneal Chemotherapy (HIPEC) procedure at the National Institutes of Health with Dr. Pingpank. Bruce remained with no evidence of disease (NED) for four years, but the cancer returned in August of 2012. Bruce had surgery at the University of Minnesota under the guidance of Dr. Robert Kratzke. Unfortunately, Bruce’s cancer returned again in March of 2014 and he is now in talks with Dr. Pingpank and his team at the University of Pittsburgh to have surgery and the HIPEC procedure again.

Bruce Jackson and Beth Ann Dodds are full-time musicians who met in 2007 in St. Paul, Minnesota when Beth auditioned to be a singer in Bruce’s band, Bruce Jackson & The Moondogs88 Band. The Moondogs88 Band is a funky, jazzy ensemble that plays in and around the Minneapolis/St. Paul area. Bruce has played piano in countless bands and studied under world renowned piano great, Manfredo Fest. Bruce has traveled the world sharing the stage with many musical greats for over 40 years. Bruce is now teaching piano, accordion, mandolin, guitar and harpsichord to children and adults in the Twin Cities metro area. Beth is a full-time student in addition to her singing career, returning to academic life to complete her degree in nutrition. Beth and Bruce are prominent members of the Meso Fighters Band, rocking the socks off of Symposium attendees each year.

Bruce and Beth even had the chance to show off their musical talent for Congresswoman McCollum, as they sang her “You Are My Sunshine.”

Bruce Jackson Presents the Bruce Vento Hope-Builder Award to Congresswoman Betty McCollum




Mesothelioma warrior Bruce Jackson and his girlfriend, Beth Dodds, represented the meso community on April 23, 2014 as they presented the Meso Foundation’s Bruce Vento Hope Builder Award to Congresswo…

Throughout this journey, Bruce is living life to its fullest, believing that despite the diagnosis of meso, life can be amazing. It might not be what most people think – that life with cancer can be amazing – but the addition of meso in his life has taught him that life is precious, beautiful and full of LOVE. He is an inspiration to us all.

To learn more about Congresswoman McCollum’s advocacy for mesothelioma research, click here.