Wear Your Support: The New Meso Foundation Store

Store Products SampleWe are beyond excited to introduce to you the new Meso Foundation Store run by GoodThreads. Our new store features a variety of products and designs, many of which are customizable. The best part: whenever a product is purchased, the Meso Foundation receives a $5.00 donation.

Many of our available designs allow users to customize them by inserting a name or a photo of the individual they wish to honor or memorialize. Similarly, our event organizers can customize their products with their event’s theme and name.

When you land on the store home page, simply click the “Get Started” button to begin the process. Now, you can choose from 11 different designs. A range of design options are available, including basic “curemeso.org” logos, customizable event-specific “5k for Meso” and “Music for Meso” logos, simple designs that display your dedication to finding a cure for mesothelioma, and more.

Once you choose a design you like, you will be able to choose the product you want to purchase. Products are available for both men and women, including standard t-shirts, long sleeve t-shirts, pullover and zip-up hoodies, micro performance t-shirts, v-neck t-shirts, polo shirts, and more.

Products are available in a variety of colors as well, many of them in blue. There are a number of great options for you to wear on September 26 for Mesothelioma Awareness Day as we paint the world in meso awareness by wearing blue! Click here for more information about how to get involved on Meso Awareness Day.

After you choose your product and the color you prefer, you can either customize the design (if you chose a design that allows for this) or continue on to make your purchase. Once you enter the checkout process, you will see that a donation amount of $5.00 is included in the purchase price. You will have the option to make a higher donation if desired.

With our new store, we hope to raise more mesothelioma awareness and funds. The donations made via product purchases will go towards our mesothelioma research grant program, education and prevention programs, patient and family support programs, and our advocacy efforts. For a more detailed rundown of how donations are used at the Meso Foundation, click here.

Visit the Meso Foundation Store now to get started!

Study Shows Bevacizumab Improves Survival in Mesothelioma

VaccineA Phase 3 French study, which will be presented at the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO)’s annual meeting at the end of May, demonstrated improved survival rates for those patients who received bevacizumab in addition to the current standard chemotherapy regimen of pemetrexed/cisplatin. Bevacizumab (Avastin® Genentech, Inc.) is an antibody that blocks angiogenesis (blood vessel growth), and it is already routinely used to treat many other cancers, including lung cancer and colon cancer.

“The mesothelioma community has been waiting for this kind of news for a long time—it is the first positive phase III trial in mesothelioma since the original study of pemetrexed/cisplatin over 10 years ago,” said Dr. Lee M. Krug of Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center and chair of the board of directors of the Mesothelioma Applied Research Foundation.

“The addition of bevacizumab has the potential to become a new standard of care for first-line therapy in this disease,” he added.

The study, conducted between 2008 and 2014, included 448 patients treated in 73 centers. The patients were randomized into two arms– one received standard chemotherapy (pemetrexed and cisplatin) and the other received standard chemotherapy plus bevacizumab. Overall survival was significantly longer in the experimental arm (median: 18.8 months vs. 16.1 months). The study concluded that adding bevacizumab in addition to pemetrexed/cisplatin provides a significantly longer survival in patients with malignant pleural mesothelioma, with acceptable toxicity, making this triplet a new treatment paradigm.

Preliminary Results of Immunotherapy Drug Show Promise for Mesothelioma Patients

VaccineThe Meso Foundation is optimistic about the results of the Phase 1b trial of pembrolizumab for PD-L1-positive advanced solid tumors, which were announced at the most recent meeting of the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR).

Dr. Evan W. Alley, MD, PhD, co-director of the Penn Mesothelioma and Pleural Program, reported the results of a Phase 1b trial of pembrolizumab for PD-L1-positive advanced solid tumors at the AACR Annual Meeting on Sunday. Of the twenty-five patients with mesothelioma who were treated as part of the study, 28% experienced tumor shrinkage and another 48% had prolonged stabilization of their disease. The drug was also demonstrated to be safe, with no patients discontinuing treatment as a result of side-effects.

”These results are quite exciting, and provide further proof of principal that this class of drugs, known as checkpoint inhibitors, are effective for mesothelioma,” noted Dr. Lee M. Krug, Chair of the Board of Directors for the Meso Foundation. “Hopefully this study will encourage much larger trials in this disease.”

Pembolizumab is an antibody that blocks the inhibitory effects of PD-1, thereby boosting the immune system’s activity. In cancer, high tumor expression of PD-L1 is linked with more aggressive disease and a poorer prognosis, and PD-L1 expression was used to select patients for this study. PD-1 inhibitors have already shown great promise in melanoma, renal cell carcinoma and lung cancer, demonstrating both tumor shrinkage and durable responses. Pembrolizumab (KeytrudaTM) is FDA approved for the treatment of advanced melanoma.

In May, the Meso Foundation will be hosting Dr. Alley in an interview, as part of the Meet the Mesothelioma Experts series. More information about the series is available at curemeso.org/experts.

Meso Foundation Receives $100,000 Donation from Best Buy Founder’s Family Foundation

Richard M. SchulzeRichard M. Schulze is the founder and chairman emeritus of Best Buy Co., Inc., the world’s largest multi-channel, consumer-electronic retailer. His connection to mesothelioma is a personal one. In 2001, Mr. Schulze lost his wife Sandra to mesothelioma. His current wife, Maureen, also lost her first husband to the same cancer.

Mr. Schulze’s family foundation donated $100,000 to the Meso Foundation, half of which will go toward the Foundation’s Patient Travel Grant Program. The focus area of the Richard M. Schulze Family Foundation is to create grant partnerships with organizations that can generate transformational results in education, human services and health.

Regarding the donation, Melinda Kotzian, CEO of the Meso Foundation, stated, “In the last year, we saw a 44% increase of patients and family members seeking support. This gift comes at the right time to help us ensure that we can fulfill such a demand.”

The Patient Travel Grant Program, one of the programs directly funded by the Schulze gift, provides a one-time grant of up to $1,000 to cover expenses incurred by a patient (exceptions made for recurring clinical trial visits). This $1,000 grant can cover the costs of travel, lodging and meals. To receive a grant, patients are required to complete an application and document significant financial need. The grant is paid by check directly to the patient.

This program is a crucial part of the services provided by the Meso Foundation. Mesothelioma treatment requires the expertise of a specialist who has extensive mesothelioma experience. Such experts are available at a limited number of centers, access to which often requires the patient to travel. Mesothelioma patients can greatly benefit from consulting with an expert. In many cases, the mesothelioma expert will be able to work with the patient’s local physicians to guide them through a more specialized treatment.

“We believe that every patient should have the chance to be seen by an appropriate mesothelioma expert, regardless of their ability to pay,” Melinda added. “Our Foundation and the entire mesothelioma community are infinitely grateful to the Schulze Family for their generous gift and belief in the work of the Meso Foundation.”

You can help support the Meso Foundation’s vital programs and patient services by giving to our year-end fundraiser at curemeso.org/savelives.

Learn more about the Meso Foundation’s Patient Travel Grant Program at curemeso.org.

Best of iMig 2014: Day 2

Dr. Hassan Receives Wagner Award***The Best of iMig 2014 updates were created by iMig and distributed to conference attendees during iMig 2014. The following is a verbatim re-post of those updates.***

2014 Wagner Medalist Announced

Dr. Raffit Hassan discusses immunologic interventions in mesothelioma
Click here to watch Dr. Raffit Hassan

The 2014 winner of the Wagner Medal was Raffit Hassan. Dr. Hassan was trained in Kashmir and the United States and is currently Head, Thoracic and Solid Tumor Immunotherapy Section, Center for Cancer Research at the National Cancer Institute.  Dr. Hassan has played pivotal role in validating the tumor differentiation antigen mesothelin as a target for cancer therapy and development of mesothelin targeted immunotherapy. This work has laid the foundation for several mesothelin directed agents that he is evaluating in the clinic for treatment of mesothelioma, lung and pancreatic cancer. Dr. Hassan has published extensively in pleural mesothelioma and was recently given the Pioneer Award by the Mesothelioma Foundation.  His award lecture was focused on mesothelin-targeted therapies for the treatment of mesothelioma.

Asbestos Exposure – A Long and Troubling History

Asbestos Blues: A History of Asbestos Mining in South Africa – Jock McCulloch
Australia and South Africa are the only countries to have mined crocidolite or blue asbestos. Crocidolite was mined in the Northern Cape for one hundred years and at Wittenoom in Western Australia from 1944 until 1966. Mining has left a pandemic of asbestos disease in the Northern Cape and although production levels were modest, Wittenoom has become the site of Australia’s worst occupational health disaster. The mines of the Northern Cape also supplied the first conclusive evidence linking asbestos to mesothelioma, but discovery had no impact on the global consumption of asbestos.

Corruption is a serious problem in communities burdened by asbestos-related disease and this has justifiably bred profound mistrust of outsiders involved in asbestos compensation, research, or litigation. This corruption has involved both suppression and destruction of knowledge and this has been one of the most effective strategies employed by the asbestos industry.  The history of suppression of information documenting the dangers of asbestos exposure dates back to the 1930’s when the work of George Slade demonstrating the health effects of asbestos exposure in miners was suppressed and ultimately destroyed.  These actions contributed to the absence of any regulation at all of asbestos mining in South Africa until 1955.  In the United States, the asbestos industry actually paid researchers to claim that asbestos was not significantly associated with mesothelioma.  Corruption of science slows regulatory legislation and limits the success of litigation aimed at compensating victims.

Occasional Exposure to Asbestos: What is the Risk? – Sjaak Burgers
The question “What is the risk of occasional asbestos exposure?” has a scientific, a political and a social answer, which are all interrelated.

Data from populations with a low, occasional asbestos exposure is scarce. A search in Western Australia uncovered asbestos exposure, sufficient to cause mesothelioma in almost all cases. Whether the risk for mesothelioma and lung cancer increases linearly or has a particular threshold is still not completely clear, but the weight of evidence supports the view that even occasional asbestos exposure is related to increased risk for mesothelioma and lung cancer.  Observations supporting the view that even minimal asbestos exposure carries significant risk have provided the basis for political discussions on reimbursement for asbestos victims. These data have been used by the World Health Organization and national policy makers to set the Maximal Tolerated Risk and the Negligible Risk Level for asbestos exposure in the working environment and at home.

In the Netherlands, the same risk estimates are part of the guideline “Occasional Asbestos Exposure”. This guideline covers the laws and regulations on asbestos, and focuses on reliable quantification of the exposition, and uses the risk estimates to educate the victims about the health risks. It has proven to be helpful to ease the panic that usually accompanies the discovery of asbestos in the neighborhood.

New Molecules and New Therapies – Advancing Mesothelioma Care

Keynote, Dean Fennell presents on treatment developments for mesothelioma
Click here to watch Dean Fennell

Paul Bass summarizes evidence from studies showing specific targeting of cancer stem called by defactinib, a novel inhibitor of FAK
Click here to watch Paul Baas

Role of Focal Adhesion Kinase (FAK) Inhibition in Mesothelioma – Ravi Salfia
Focal adhesion kinase (FAK) is a non-receptor tyrosine kinase that plays an important role in signal transduction pathways that are initiated at sites of integrin-mediated cell adhesions and by growth factor receptors. It is a key regulator of survival, proliferation, migration and invasion, all of which are all involved in the development and progression of cancer.  FAK has also been implicated in the phosphorylation of several focal adhesion associated proteins, including paxillin.  Overexpression and/or increased activity of FAK is common in a wide variety of human cancers and a large and growing body of literature has provided strong evidence that FAK has important roles in tumor formation and metastasis.

Inhibition or modulation of FAK would appear to be a potential way to treat multiple cancers, including mesothelioma. However, since FAK is a strong mediator of survival signaling, tumor cells with high levels of FAK could be more resistant against classic anti-cancer therapy. There are now multiple agents that specifically target FAK and inhibit this kinase.  Studies of FAK inhibitors in vitro and in animal models of different cancers have shown that these agents effectively decrease tumor growth, decrease invasion and metastasis, and inhibit pancreatic tumor microenvironment components, such as tumor associated fibroblasts and macrophages.  FAK inhibition also promotes apoptosis and modulates the activity of nuclear factor E2-related factor 2 (Nrf2).  The effects of FAK inhibition on Nrf2 activity may be particularly important since the Nrf2 signal pathway may function to protect cancer cells from against drug-induced cell death. Clinical trials with FAK inhibitors in patients with mesothelioma are now in progress.

Raphael Bueno presents the design of the phase II study of the new FAK inhibitor, defactinib for the treatment of patients with mesothelioma
Click here to watch Raphael Bueno

Establishing Tissue Banks to Support Mesothelioma Research

MESOBANK: A Clinicobiological Database for Epidemiological and Translational Research for Mesothelioma – Françoise Galateau-Sallé
The French Ministry of Health and the National Cancer Institute have funded the Clinico-biological database for epidemiological and translational research since 2011. The goal of this project was to collect structured data on follow-up and outcomes in order to structure a collection of samples of high quality for use in basic and translational research, to develop inter-institutional systems and to establish quality management policies.

The collaborative effort of the French Multicentic National Register network MESONAT and of the Center of Excellence MESOPATH made it possible to extend these efforts to mesothelioma by the creation of MESOBANK, a virtual and exhaustive repository of national data and samples pertaining to mesothelioma. The MESOBANK database was interconnected with that of the National Referent Center on pleural malignant mesothelioma and rare peritoneal tumors, supported by the French National Cancer Institute and is was also was closely networked with the National Program for Monitoring of Mesothelioma, the French MESONAT network and with the International Excellence Center.

The MESOBANK has gathered 7,725 mesothelioma samples (with >10,000 paraffin embedded blocks and 1,489 frozen tissue samples) from patients with certified diagnoses of mesothelioma. Assessment of these tissues has included systematic analysis of 10 immunohistochemical markers, and p16 deletion by FISH, allowing studies of sensitivity of markers for the diagnosis and prognosis of mesothelioma with a high statistical power. MESOBANK can provide support for new basic genomic and pharmacogenomic research programs to foster a better understanding of the molecular basis of mesothelioma and improved early detection and management of this disease.

MesobanK UK – An International Bioresource of Mesothelioma Tissue – Robert Rintoul
Availability of quality assured, fully annotated mesothelioma tissue collected to rigorous standard operating procedures (SOPs) to facilitate basic and translational research, is very limited. MesobanK in the United Kingdom (UK) was funded by the British Lung Foundation and Mick Knighton Mesothelioma Research Fund to provide researchers with access to a wide range of samples from patients with this disease.

The overall objectives of MesobanK are to:

  • Construct a tissue microarray (TMA) from 1000 cases of mesothelioma linked to a clinical data set.
  • Collect 300 cases of fresh mesothelioma tissue, whole blood, serum, and plasma linked to a clinical data set with follow up data from the National Cancer Registration Service.
  • Develop 20 new fully annotated mesothelioma cell lines.

MesobanK abides by all relevant United Kingdom and European Union legislation regarding the collection of tissue and data. The project is overseen by a Steering Committee and an independent Scientific Advisory Board reviews applications for samples, which are prioritized for access based solely on scientific merit.

To date, 500 of the 1000 mesothelioma case designated cases for TMA have been acquired from UK pathology departments and the TMA construction is underway. Several new cell lines are also being characterized. Quality assurance and control are being undertaken to ensure suitability for research use.

MesobanK will also act as a repository for samples collected within clinical trials.

Dr. L Mutti speaks on novel strategies and critical biomarkers for mesothelioma
Click here to watch Dr. Mutti 

To learn more about iMig 2014, read Best of iMig 2014: Day 1 and Best of iMig 2014: Day 3.

“Best of iMig 2014” has been supported by the unrestricted sponsorship of Versastem, Inc.

***The Best of iMig 2014 updates were created by iMig and distributed to conference attendees during iMig 2014. The following is a verbatim re-post of those updates.***