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.

Common Asian Spice Shows Promise in Slowing Progression of Mesothelioma

SpicesIt has recently been discovered that the use of curcumin appears promising in slowing the progression of mesothelioma. As Medical Xpress reports, “Scientists from Case Western Reserve University and the Georg-Speyer-Haus in Frankfurt, Germany, demonstrate that application of curcumin, a derivative of the spice turmeric, and cancer-inhibiting peptides increase levels of a protein inhibitor known to combat the progression of this cancer. Their findings appeared in the Aug. 14 online edition Clinical Cancer Research.”

Medical Xpress goes on to explain, “The culprit in sparking many cancers, particularly mesothelioma, is the intracellular protein and transcription factor STAT3 (signal transducer and activator of transcription 3). A signal transducer and activator is a pathway for instructing the growth and survival of cells, and a transcription factor is a protein that controls genetic information directing cells how to perform. STAT3 is notorious for sending signals to trigger the onset of human cancers and to fuel their continued growth. The great neutralizer of STAT3 is PIAS3 (protein inhibitor of activated STAT3). PIAS3 possesses the strength to inhibit and block STAT3′s ability to cause cancer.”

As the article continues, the logistics of the study are explained in further detail. “Investigators assessed PIAS3 expression in tissue samples of mesothelioma solid tumors and the protein inhibitor’s subsequent effects on STAT3 activity. Tissue samples came from three different locations in the country, and information logged for each specimen detailed how long the patient lived and the types of mesothelioma they had. Investigators then linked the levels of PIAS3 with STAT3 activity in each sample. Additionally, investigators examined the effects of curcumin and peptides extracted from PIAS3 segments on malignant mesothelioma cells in vitro.”

Medical Xpress spoke with Afshin Dowlati, MD, a professor of medicine at Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine and the director of the Center for Cancer Drug Development at University Hospitals Seidman Cancer Center. Dowlati stated, “In those mesothelioma patients where PIAS3 is low, indeed STAT3 is activated. Mesothelioma patients who have low PIAS3 and high STAT3 have a greater chance of dying early. On the flip side, those patients with a high PIAS3 levels have a 44 percent decreased chance of dying in one year, which is substantial.”

In explaining the findings of the study, Medical Xpress continues, “Investigators also found that curcumin and PIAS3 peptides raised PIAS3 levels, which brought down STAT3 activity and caused mesothelioma cells to die. Their study served as proof of principle about the effectiveness of these two compounds in treating malignant mesothelioma, a first step in moving a treatment toward clinical trials. Additionally, their findings demonstrated that PIAS3 could serve as a predictive marker for managing mesothelioma because the disease’s tumors do not always progress in a consistent, predictable manner, even when tumor stages, grades and clinical presentations appear similar.”

Dowlati further explained the results, stating, “Our findings suggest that PIAS3 expression positively affects survival in mesothelioma patients and that PIAS3 activation could become a therapeutic strategy. Our interest for the future is that we want to find better, more simple ways to increase intracellular levels of PIAS3 for malignant mesothelioma through the use of synthetic PIAS3 peptide or curcumin analogs. We must develop a curcumin analog that is absorbable by the human body. Currently, curcumin ingested as the spice turmeric has practically no absorption within the gut.”

Visit Medical Xpress to read the full article.

Bill Ziegler on his Experience as a Survivor Advocate

Bill ZieglerIn June, mesothelioma warrior Bill Ziegler represented the mesothelioma community as a Survivor Advocate at the 7th Biennial Cancer Survivorship Research Conference: Advancing Survivorship Care through Multilevel Collaboration after being nominated by the Meso Foundation.  He was one of twenty survivors accepted out of 100 applications. Survivor Advocates attended the conference to participate in the conversation about the latest advances in survivorship care and how to improve the quality of life for cancer survivors. He wanted to share what he learned with the meso community:

Greetings Meso Community!

A little over a month ago I attended a survivorship conference in Atlanta.  It has taken me a while to formulate my thoughts on the overall experience and information I received during the conference.  There were over 500 people in attendance at the conference—20 of whom were survivor advocates.  The advocates represented different cancer support organizations across the US.  On the first day, there were sessions that placed survivor advocates at the tables of researchers.  Every 20 minutes you would switch tables and meet and learn something new.  Every researcher and advocate brought something uniquely different to the table.

I did attend a few breakout sessions.  The sessions I attended ranged from Adolescent and Young Adult (AYA) cancer survivorship to financial impact of a cancer diagnosis.  These were great sessions that provided a lot of relevant information on how much more money cancer patients will spend on healthcare over time to social stigma of a cancer diagnosis within a social group.  Without a doubt, there was a lot of information presented.  But the core reason I wanted to attend the conference was because of the specific nature of the challenges that a diagnosis of mesothelioma presents to patients.

I wanted to understand how, as patients, we can get the best treatment possible, and then continue to be followed over time from cancer care and then transition to primary care.  It was clear that this gap in care was the biggest elephant in the room—and identified repeatedly by a multitude of researchers.  For a lot of mesothelioma patients, as well as myself, this diagnosis of mesothelioma means that you will have to travel to a specific treatment center and have a plan tailored to your own personal needs.  Whether it is to have surgery, chemo, radiation, or trials, a plan is usually made at one of a handful of treatment centers across the US.  After treatment, which is usually hundreds of miles or hours away, patients are sent back home to recover and be followed once every few months back at the specialists office.  Any non-cancer treatment follow up will usually be done with your primary care physician—and it is rare that they have all of your records from your other healthcare providers unless you specifically provide them to your primary care physician.  It is this disconnect that so many of our community members have expressed concern with, as well as myself.

I often reflect on my own adventure and ask myself how I’ve been successful.  I’ve done well because I try to have a resource for everything.  It has become clear to me that patients who have the right resources win.  Whether it be a mental support resource, a doctor resource, a travel resource, or a cancer “best practice” resource, I can always find what I need.

Patient resource management is critical for their success.  At the conference, there was a clear trend towards “nurse navigators.” Nurse navigators help patients find health resources, and guide patients through treatment options.  Nurse navigators are popping up in health organizations across the country to assist patients and providers becoming more aligned.  It’s a good thing for survivorship, and while it’s something that is growing, not everyone has a navigator and there are still a lot of gaps in total care for cancer patients. I was proud to know that the Meso Foundation has been at the forefront of this trend for nearly a decade, providing medical consultations and support, and helping mesothelioma patients, through Mary Hesdorffer, Nurse Practitioner.

I’ve thought a lot about how each patient can manage resources effectively and be organized in keeping those resources and in the way they receive care.  I told this to another advocate and he showed me a portable handbook that he brought with him.  This handbook was standardized for patients, caregivers, and doctors.  It kept all vital information so resources could be available and easily shared.  I thought it was great, and extremely helpful!  I’m going to get a couple copies of the book because I think it would be beneficial for our patients to have.  It will provide a standard handbook for patient resource management.  So, I’m going to talk with Mary on how we can develop something that can be a “patient resource management tool.”

I am extremely happy that we, as mesothelioma patients, have a great cancer community facilitated by the Meso Foundation that allows us to connect and learn from one another.  It is a GREAT resource and wonderful tool!  By attending the conference, I have also learned that there are many different components of survivorship, and that it means something different to everyone.  I would also like to thank everyone in the community for allowing me to participate and be an advocate for our mesothelioma community—attending the conference was just more proof that we have some of the best people and resources available.

-Bill Ziegler

Read more about Bill on our blog.

October Events: Regional Conference on Mesothelioma in Chicago

Chicago brochure coverThe 2014 Chicago Regional Conference on Malignant Mesothelioma is a one-day event geared to patients and family members, covering a variety of topics related to mesothelioma and presented by local and regional area experts. The conference is a collaborative effort between the Mesothelioma Applied Research Foundation and The University of Chicago Medicine.

The conference is geared towards patients (newly diagnosed or those looking to learn about second-line and beyond treatment options), caregivers, family members, general health practitioners, and anyone wishing to learn more about mesothelioma. Topics of discussion include imaging, genetics, surgery, chemotherapy, novel treatments, stem cells, immunotherapy, and resources for patients and families.

The location of the conference is the Palmer House Hilton at 17 E Monroe Street, Chicago, IL 60603. The event will begin at 9:30am and commence with a cocktail reception at 5pm. The registration cost is $25, and includes breakfast and lunch.

More information and registration is available at curemeso.org/chicago.

The Meso Foundation is also the host of an annual symposium, taking place in March of every year in the Washington, DC area, and another regional conference in Philadelphia in September.