Meso Foundation Participates in 2015 Weinman Symposium

2015 Weinman ConferenceMary Hesdorffer, APRN, the executive director of the Mesothelioma Applied Research Foundation, was one of the 30 international speakers at the 2015 Weinman Symposium at the University of Hawaii Cancer Center.

The conference, which was sponsored by Weinman Foundation’s Honolulu chapter, the National Cancer Institute, National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, International Association for the Study of Lung Cancer, and UH Cancer Center, focused on mesothelioma in populations exposed to naturally occurring asbestiform fibers.

The special guest and award recipient at this year’s conference was Dr. Mary-Claire King. Dr. King is best known for her discovery of the BRCA1 gene, which is associated with development of breast and ovarian cancers.

“This conference puts Hawaii as the leading place to discuss ways on how to fight asbestos-related cancer,” said Dr. Michele Carbone, the lead organizer of the conference. “This is the first international conference to discuss how to prevent this type of cancer.”

“What makes these Carbone conferences unique is that he brings together experts from multiple disciplines to help problem-solve in mesothelioma. It is very exciting to have experts like Dr. King actively participate in this conference stimulating discussion on the BAP1 gene and its implications in mesothelioma.”

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Examining Current Clinical Trials and Mesothelioma Treatment Trends

Watch Mary Hesdorffer, the Meso Foundation’s executive director and mesothelioma expert, in this opening presentation at the 2015 International Symposium on Malignant Mesothelioma. In this video, she discusses the state of mesothelioma research and treatment options. Her discussion begins with a focus on clinical trials. With 92 open clinical trials for mesothelioma, of which 55 include some form of pharmacologic or radiotherapy intervention, mesothelioma research has never looked more hopeful.

Currently, research is focusing beyond chemotherapy, taking a look at how manipulation of the immune system can advance treatment options. SS1P, an immunotoxin, illustrates this new area of research. Other trials are looking at modulating the immune system with t-cells in hopes of starting immune system surveillance that will destroy the bad cells.

Available clinical trials now include vaccine treatments, chemotherapy, and, sometimes, a combination of both. For example, the CRS-207 trial combines a mesothelin-targeting vaccine with traditional chemotherapy.

Various new trials are also in the works. Verastem, a pharmaceutical company, is beginning a trial that uses an agent to target cancer stem cells to delay the time to progression after having a response or stabilization with first-line therapy.

Another focus in mesothelioma research is targeting angiogenesis. Angiogenesis is the ability for cancer cells to find new blood supplies so they can continue growing. This type of research is working on ways to cut off this blood supply.

Mary notes that the face of cancer treatment is changing, and it is important that patients are healthy enough to receive new treatments. When considering a new clinical trial or treatment, a patient must consider the impact it can have on their health, how it will impact their cancer, and whether or not the new drugs will prevent them from being able to try other treatments in the future.

To watch Mary Hesdorffer’s full presentation, click here.

Progress in Mesothelioma Research is Possible, Requires Collaboration

Researcherby Mary Hesdorffer, NP, Executive Director, Meso Foundation

Through our peer reviewed research grant program, the Meso Foundation supports the most promising research projects in the field of mesothelioma. Cutting edge research is crucial to the lives of those affected by mesothelioma, and it is the key to finding a cure for this cancer.

The Meso Foundation’s grant program has been ongoing for 14 years. Until the Foundation was founded and the program was developed, there was little movement in the field of mesothelioma research. In fact, there was no treatment yet approved for this disease. Pharmaceutical companies and Bio Tech companies were producing new agents every year, but in order for mesothelioma to be considered for these drugs, a better understanding of the disease was needed.

This year, I am pleased to announce that pharmaceutical companies have taken a big interest in mesothelioma. Companies are hosting global and national clinical trials based upon much of the groundwork that developed from the research funded through our grant program.

To date, the Meso Foundation has funded 94 projects and awarded $9 million. The funded research has taken place in 6 different countries and has resulted in 180 published pieces. We are taking mesothelioma research to the next level.

Among the research we have funded, there has been an interest in examining patients’ responses, or lack thereof, to therapies. Tumors are unique to the individual, and we know that some patients will have a very good response to a therapy and some will not. The goal is to understand why they differ in order to filter out those who will not benefit from a prescribed treatment and refer them to more appropriate therapy.

Over the past few years, I have attended a number of mesothelioma conferences, both here and abroad. I am proud to inform you that our funded researchers are the most recognized names in the field. They have made a personal commitment to both the Meso Foundation and the scientific community to continue this work.

Our current grant cycle recently ended, and we received applications from 39 research projects. After the peer review process, our Scientific Advisory Board submitted 10 projects to be considered for funding. In the current economic climate, we cannot fund all of these grants, and it is a shame that promising research will go unfunded this year. We are a small disease with little outside interest, and to remain a viable organization and continue funding research, we depend upon philanthropy.

Please consider donating to the Meso Foundation through our year-end fundraising campaign. Visit to support our research grant program, among our other vital programs and patient services. Your support saves lives!

Wednesday Update from iMig Conference

Mary Hesdorffer, NP, the executive director of the Meso Foundation is in attendance at the International Mesothelioma Interest Group (iMig) conference in Cape Town, South Africa. Mary has sent the following photo updates from Wednesday at the conference.

Cocktail Reception

The entertainment at the cocktail reception.

Dario Barbone, PhD

Dario Barbone, PhD, shared that he will be submitting a grant for consideration to the NCI next week. He credits the Meso Foundation’s grant for providing the funding that permitted him to carry out experiments from which the resulting data can be used in applying for larger grants. We will continue to update you on the careers of these young scientists who are the future of mesothelioma research.

Joe Friedberg and Melissa Culligan

Joe Friedberg, MD, and Melissa Culligan, BSN, RN, are in attendance.

Melissa Culligan

Melissa Culligan, BSN, RN, was the only nurse invited to present in the surgical session. Congratulations for a thoughtful presentation.

David Schrump, MD

David Schrump, MD, head of the Thoracic and Gastrointestinal Oncology Branch at the National Cancer Institute, seen during the poster discussion session.

Mary Hesdorffer to Present at iMig Conference This Week

Mary Speaking at 2013 SymposiumMary Hesdorffer, MS, APRN-BC, the executive director of the Meso Foundation, will be presenting at the 12th International Mesothelioma Interest Group (iMig) Conference in Cape Town, South Africa this week. iMig is an international group of scientists and clinicians working to understand, cure, and prevent mesothelioma. iMig presents an important conference that brings together mesothelioma professionals from around the world to discuss the current state of research and advancements in the field.

Mary is chairing a nursing panel and she will give two presentations at the conference. The first presentation, titled “The Voice of the Meso Community in the United States,” will discuss how the Meso Foundation, with the help of community members, advocated for $9.3 million in federal research funding directed to mesothelioma research since 2008. Mary’s second presentation is title “Promoting Entry into Clinical Trials and Improving Access to Specialist Treatment and Care.”

Mary is a nurse practitioner with over 16 years of experience in mesothelioma treatment. She is an expert in clinical trials for mesothelioma and her work has been published in a variety of scientific journals. Mary serves as the executive director of the Mesothelioma Applied Research Foundation.