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.

Meet the Experts: Dr. Valerie Rusch, Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center

Meet the Experts: Dr. Valerie Rusch

The Meso Foundation would like to invite you to join us for the next installment of our Meet the Experts series: “Focused Discussion on a New Clinical Trial: GL-ONC1” on Monday, February 17 at 8 PM Eastern Time, featuring Dr. Valerie Rusch, Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center.

The teleconference will follow our usual format with Mary Hesdorffer, Nurse Practitioner, as the moderator. We encourage all listeners to submit questions through our Facebook page and email throughout the call.

The teleconference is free, but does require that you RSVP in order to receive the call-in information. You can RSVP here.

Dr. Valerie Rusch of the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center is a thoracic surgeon with over 25 years of experience. Her focus is treatment of patients with cancers of the lung, airways (trachea, bronchi), esophagus, mediastinum, chest wall, and pleura (malignant pleural mesothelioma). Read more about Dr. Rusch here.

You can listen to previous Meet the Experts sessions, including our most recent session, “New Frontiers in Surgery” with Dr. Joseph Friedberg, on our Meet the Experts page.

Meet the Experts Recap: Dr. Friedberg on New Frontiers in Surgery

Dr. Joseph FriedbergOver 40 individuals from the meso community joined us Thursday night for our latest Meet the Experts session “New Frontiers in Surgery” with Dr. Joseph Friedberg, a surgeon at the University of Pennsylvania. With an interest in diseases of the pleura, Dr. Friedberg’s surgical protocol involves laser treatments and photodynamic therapy, on which he has published a promising study. During Thursday’s teleconference, Dr. Friedberg explained photodynamic therapy and his surgical treatment process, how it works, and the benefits it may hold for mesothelioma patients.

At the start of the teleconference, Dr. Friedberg explained that photodynamic therapy is a light-based cancer treatment that is minimally toxic, unlike chemotherapy, and not as penetrative as radiation. To administer the therapy, the patient is given a compound similar to chlorophyll, which is used by plants to capture light energy from the sun. The compound enters the patient’s cells, making them very light sensitive and giving them the ability to capture visible light energy. The light energy only penetrates a small distance into the body, which is enough to cause reactions that can kill cancer cells. In a disease such as pleural mesothelioma where, following lung-sparing surgery, microscopic cancer cells generally remain, photodynamic therapy is used to complement or augment surgery in an effort to remove all detectable cancer.

Dr. Friedberg went on to discuss the surgical treatment process for mesothelioma patients at the University of Pennsylvania, but first noted, “All surgery for mesothelioma really remains investigational at this point.” When a new mesothelioma patient goes to UPenn for treatment, a team evaluates their case and determines which type of treatments they qualify for. When a patient is a candidate for surgery, and they decide they want to go this route, Dr. Friedberg notes that they start with surgery followed by photodynamic therapy and then chemotherapy. Most of their patients do not receive radiation treatment.

For pleural mesothelioma patients, Dr. Friedberg performs lung-sparing surgery (as opposed to lung-sacrificing surgery, which is best known as an ‘extrapleural pneumonectomy’ or EPP). In his method, Dr. Friedberg mobilizes the cancer off of the chest wall, diaphragm, and mediastinum, so that the cancer is tethered solely to the lung. The pleural lining is then completely removed from the lung along with the cancer that is connected to it. The median length of stay post-surgery is 13 days with the first 1-3 days spent in the ICU. The photodynamic therapy leaves the patient with light sensitivity that lasts about two weeks and could result in very quick sunburn.

Dr. Friedberg has performed this surgery and treatment process on a few hundred patients, which includes patients with cancers other than mesothelioma. Nonetheless, he notes, “The operation is still in evolution … I’m always trying to think of ways you can make it better and more translatable.”

It is still debatable whether lung-sparing surgery or lung-sacrificing surgery is better for patients. Dr. Friedberg believes that saving the lung allows patients a better quality of life post-surgery. With two lungs, “The patients are doing more; they’re in better shape. They are just more robust.” Additionally, if the mesothelioma reoccurs, “They are typically able to tolerate better and more aggressive treatment.”

As moderator, Mary Hesdorffer, NP, relays the question of a listener who asks, “What is the average lifespan of a surgical patient who goes through a successful surgery?” Dr. Friedberg answers honestly as he states, “This is both the best and the most important, and the least answerable question a patient can ask.” He notes the unpredictable qualities of mesothelioma, as the cancer is not only different from patient to patient, but it also changes character within one patient from one region of the chest cavity to the next.

Dr. Friedberg goes on to explain the questions that arise when a mesothelioma patient is deciding whether or not they should go through with surgery. The patient needs to weigh the benefits and the risks, and also think about lung-sparing or lung-sacrificing surgery. Dr. Friedberg suggests patients ask their surgeons, “What would make you take the lung out and what is the impact of that?” The patient should also make sure the surgeon they speak with will actually be performing their surgery. They should find out who else is on the team, what additional treatments may be necessary, whether or not radiation is needed and why, and so on.

Dr. Friedberg provided a huge amount of information regarding mesothelioma surgery and photodynamic therapy. He discussed who qualifies for his treatment and who will benefit from it, how mesothelioma surgery differs from surgeon to surgeon, what role photodynamic therapy appears to be playing in the treatment process, and much more. We are extremely grateful to Dr. Friedberg for taking part in this Meet the Experts session and providing the community with excellent insight into mesothelioma surgical treatment.

You can listen to the full teleconference on the Meet the Experts page.

UPCOMING MEET THE EXPERTS
The next Meet the Experts session will be held on February 17th at 8PM Eastern with Dr. Valerie Rusch of Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center. More details will be announced as they become available on the Meet the Experts page.

Meet the Mesothelioma Experts with Dr. Joe Friedberg of UPenn

Mesothelioma Expert Dr. Joe Friedberg of UPenn

The Meso Foundation would like to invite you to join us for the next installment of our Meet the Experts series: “New Frontiers in Surgery” on Thursday, January 30 at 9 PM Eastern time, featuring Joseph Friedberg, MD.

The teleconference will follow our usual format, with Mary Hesdorffer, Nurse Practitioner, as the moderator (you can listen to our previous installments here). We encourage all listeners to visit our Facebook page throughout the call to ask questions (email questions are also welcomed).

The teleconference is free, but does require that you RSVP in order to receive the call-in information. Please RSVP here.

Dr. Friedberg is a surgeon at the University of Pennsylvania and has an interest in diseases of the pleura. His protocol involves laser treatments and photodynamic therapy, on which he has published a promising study. He heads several investigational trials unique in the world to develop treatments for advanced cancers and malignant mesothelioma, including the development of a lung cancer vaccine. He frequently performs video thoracoscopic procedures for the treatment of a wide variety of chest diseases, and is skilled in both open and minimally invasive approaches to cancer surgery.

Dr. Friedberg will also be a speaker at this year’s International Symposium on Malignant Mesothelioma, taking place on March 5 – 7. Learn more about the Symposium and register today.

Using the Measles Virus to Treat Mesothelioma

dnaLast night, Dr. Tobias Peikert of the Mayo Clinic joined us on a conference call, as part of the Meso Foundation’s Meet the Experts series, to discuss an exciting new clinical trial. The trial, which uses the measles virus to attack the mesothelioma cells, is currently enrolling pleural mesothelioma patients regardless of whether they’ve undergone prior therapy. This is a Phase 1 trial, meaning that the goal of the trial is to determine the level of toxicity of the agent and to establish the optimal dose.

According to Dr. Peikert, the measles virus is particularly interesting in the treatment of cancers. Historically, the notion of using this virus came to scientists mostly by accident. They noticed that when people with cancer became ill with measles, their cancer nearly or all disappeared. As a result, the idea has already been used for some time with treatment of lymphoma and other hematologic cancers.

This trial has now been open for six months and is administered in Rochester, Minnesota.

The Mesothelioma Applied Research Foundation conducts Meet the Experts conference calls every couple of months. To receive notifications of these calls, please sign up for news from the Meso Foundation.

The full podcast of the interview with Dr. Peikert is available on Meso Foundation’s website.