Introducing Meso-Connect: A Peer-to-Peer Support System

Find mesothelioma support through the Meso Foundation’s new peer-to-peer support system Meso-Connect.This week, the Meso Foundation launched Meso-Connect, a peer-to-peer support system aimed at helping mesothelioma patients and their families to combat isolation by connecting them with peers who are going through, or have been through, a similar experience.

Due to the rarity of mesothelioma (3,500 patients diagnosed each year in the United States) and the aggressive nature of this cancer, most patients feel alone in their fight. For mesothelioma patients, even just obtaining a diagnosis can often be a long process. Finding a specialist and the prospect of drastic surgeries, chemotherapy, and radiation can be even more daunting. For this reason, we have developed Meso-Connect. Through Meso-Connect, the Foundation identifies and connects individual mesothelioma patients and/or their caregivers with members of the mesothelioma community who “have been there, and have done that.” All participants in the program are carefully screened to ensure a safe experience and fit.

This service is aimed at patients in all stages of a mesothelioma diagnosis. For a patient in the early stages of surgical recovery, for example, speaking with a peer who has successfully recovered may provide hope and inspiration. Additionally, the program is also available to caregivers, as well as those who have lost a loved one to meso.

Meso-Connect is also beneficial for those members of the mesothelioma community who choose to be on the helping side. Speaking with patients who need guidance can provide them with a sense of purpose and can serve as a reminder of their own progress.

To participate in Meso-Connect, either as someone receiving help or as someone providing help, patients and families must first register. Once signed up, each participant will be thoroughly screened. Those registrants who indicate they are willing to help others will receive training and guidance prior to their assignment. All participants are expected to comply with the terms, rules, and regulations of the program.

More information about Meso-Connect is available at

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

The 2014 Symposium Has Begun!

Advocates for Mesothelioma are gathered for the 2014 International Symposium on Malignant Mesothelioma

The 2014 Meso Foundation’s International Symposium on Malignant Mesothelioma began yesterday in Washington, DC. Yesterday, attendees spent the day on Capitol Hill advocating for federal involvement in mesothelioma research.

Today, March 6, attendees have been listening to a variety of speakers and have been learning about topics such as cancer stem cells, pleural and peritoneal mesothelioma, novel therapeutics, chemotherapy, early detection, etc…

The Symposium is also available via live stream to those unable to travel. Click here to learn more about the symposium and watch the live stream

Recipient of the Outstanding Nurse Award Announced

Anne AlessandriniWe are excited to announce that the 2014 recipient of the Meso Foundation’s June Breit and Jocelyn Farrar Outstanding Nurse Award is Anne Alessandrini of the Brigham and Women’s Hospital.

At the start of 2014, the Meso Foundation introduced the June Breit and Jocelyn Farrar Outstanding Nurse Award, named in memory of two courageous women and nursing professionals who battled mesothelioma. As members of the Meso Foundation’s Board of Directors, June Breit and Jocelyn Farrar both cherished the meso community and worked diligently to raise awareness and research funds to win the war on mesothelioma. With this award, we honor an individual in the nursing profession who exhibits an optimistic, determined, and generous spirit reflective of both June and Jocelyn. You can learn more about the award, and June Breit and Jocelyn Farrar on our website.

Upon announcing the award, we began seeking a recipient through a nomination process. Meso Foundation community members submitted nominations for nurses who positively impact their lives. After receiving numerous nominations, we narrowed down the pool to six finalists. We then let the community decide on the winner through a voting process. We provided short biographies for each finalist and asked the community to vote for the nurse who they thought should receive the Outstanding Nurse Award. After receiving hundreds of votes, we had our winner: Anne Alessandrini.

Anne began her career in the nursing profession as a full-time nursing assistant in the Thoracic Intensive Care Unit (ICU) while she put herself through nursing school full time on nights and weekends. In December of 2007, she graduated from Lawrence Memorial/Regis College School of Nursing and began her career working in cardiology at the Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, Massachusetts. After a year and a half, Anne decided to return to the Thoracic ICU at Brigham and Women’s, and this is where she continues her career today. Aside from her work in the Thoracic ICU, Anne works with a Nursing Liaison group conducting follow-up appointments in the homes of mesothelioma patients. Anne enjoys working with this unique patient population and as she states, “I feel privileged to be allowed into peoples’ lives during such a vulnerable time.” Anne’s passion and positive attitude is evident as she continues, “Every day I try to bring a smile to my patients and their families. I enjoy the challenges of each and every day working in the Thoracic ICU. The best part is getting to know who people really are, not just a diagnosis or medical record number, but the actual person.” She also expresses the fulfilment she finds in “watching the patients progress knowing that even when they may doubt themselves, I can help push them to accomplish their goals.”

The June Breit and Jocelyn Farrar Outstanding Nurse Award will be presented at the Meso Foundation’s Awards Dinner on March 6, 2014 as part of the Foundation’s International Symposium on Malignant Mesothelioma. The Symposium will be held from March 5th through 7th in the Washington, DC metro area. For more details, visit our Symposium page.

Dr. David Sugarbaker’s Move to Lung Institute at Baylor College of Medicine

Dr. David Sugarbaker will begin his new role as Director of the Lung Institute at Baylor College of Medicine and Chief of Thoracic Surgery in the Michael E. DeBakey Department of Surgery on April 30th.

Dr. Sugarbaker with Meso Foundation’s executive director, Mary Hesdorffer, receiving the Pioneer Award at 2012 International Symposium on Malignant Mesothelioma.

The Mesothelioma Applied Research Foundation congratulates Dr. David Sugarbaker on his new role as Director of the Lung Institute at Baylor College of Medicine and Chief of Thoracic Surgery in the Michael E. DeBakey Department of Surgery. He steps down as Chief of Thoracic Surgery at Brigham and Women’s Hospital effective April 30.

Dr. Sugarbaker is a member of the Meso Foundation’s Science Advisory Board and is a very well known surgeon within the mesothelioma community and beyond.

Dr. Sugarbaker attended Wheaton College in Wheaton Illinois and then went on to attend Cornell University Medical College in New York. He completed his residency at the Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston and his cardiothoracic training at the Toronto General Hospital and Mount Sinai Hospital in Toronto, Canada. Following his training in Toronto in 1988, Dr. Sugarbaker return to the Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston appointed as Chief of the newly formed Division of Thoracic Surgery.

The Division of Thoracic Surgery has grown to one of the largest in the nation performing over 3700 cases/year with 14 staff surgeons and 3 research associates. Dr. Sugarbaker pioneered the technique of extrapleural pneumonectomy and its application to patients with mesothelioma. He has developed innovative multimodality therapies and directed translation research programs in this disease that are known worldwide. He is Founder and Director of the International Pleural Mesothelioma Program at the Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School. During Dr. Sugarbaker’s tenure at the Harvard Medical School, he has had the opportunity of mentoring many residents both in the General Surgery Program and the Cardiothoracic Program. Dr. Sugarbaker is well known both on a national and international level. He travels extensively being invited to lecture at various hospitals, society and association meetings here in the United States, Europe, Japan, China and Australia. Dr. Sugarbaker has published extensively in all the top journals and textbooks.