Meso Foundation Updates its Peer-Review for Research Grant Funding

ResearchAs the only non-government funder of peer-reviewed mesothelioma research, the Meso Foundation has announced an update to its peer-review process for evaluating research grant proposals, so as to once again match the process by the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

The Foundation has always modeled its peer-review process after the NIH, so when the NIH made changes in 2013, the Foundation followed suit.

The change involves streamlining the reviews by eliminating the two-step process and replacing it with one step only. Instead of sending a project through two separate rounds of review, which would usually result in a total of 3-4 number of reviewers looking at each project, now all 3-4 reviewers evaluate the project in the one and only round. This ensures a quicker review turnaround and a more efficient process.

To learn more about the Meso Foundation’s research grant program, visit curemeso.org.

A Look at the Advancing Breakthrough Therapies for Patients Act

Mary at Friends of Cancer Researchby Mary Hesdorffer, NP, Executive Director, Mesothelioma Applied Research Foundation

The Advancing Breakthrough Therapies for Patients Act was first introduced in the Senate by Senators Bennet ( D-CO), Hatch (R-UT) and Burr (R-NC). Two months later, Congresswoman DeGette (D-CO) and Congressman Bilbray (R-CA) introduced the act in the House of Representatives. The bills, which received bipartisan support, were included as an amendment to the Food and Drug Administration’s Safety and Innovation Act (FDASIA), the latest iteration of the Prescription Drug User Fee bill, and in July of 2012, the breakthrough therapy designation was signed into law.

As a result of this law, a new drug may be designated as a breakthrough therapy if it is intended to treat a serious or life-threatening disease, and if preliminary clinical evidence suggests it provides a substantial improvement over existing therapies. Once a breakthrough therapy designation is granted, the FDA and drug sponsor work together to determine the most efficient path forward. In just two years, 178 requests for breakthrough designation have been submitted, 44 designations have been granted, and 6 drugs have been approved within the program.

On May 6 of this year, Mary Hesdorffer, the executive director of the Meso Foundation, and Melinda Kotzian, its chief executive officer, attended the congressional briefing titled Friends of Cancer Research, which focused on evaluating the progress of this program.

The panel agreed that the next task will be to streamline the process. This will eliminate applications that absolutely do not meet the criteria for breakthrough designation.

Janet Woodcock, MD, director, of the Center for Drug Evaluation and Research within Food and Drug Administration, stated that they “are not planning on moving drugs through this process that offer only incremental progress, but those that demonstrate a substantial benefit.”

Two representatives of the pharmaceutical industry shared their companies’ experience in gaining the first designation under this act. They noted that the time and commitment of all parties involved made this process work.

Dr. Woodcock cautioned that sequestration had an impact on the financing of this program. It will take more funding to continue operating the Breakthrough Therapies program at the present level, but she hopes that streamlining the process will allow for a more drugs to reach the patients in need.

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

Mesothelioma Researcher Receives Pioneer Award

Dr. Michele Carbone

Dr. Michele Carbone spoke at the Meso Foundation’s 2013 International Symposium on Malignant Mesothelioma

The Mesothelioma Applied Research Foundation announced today that the 2014 recipient of its Pioneer Award is Michele Carbone, MD, PhD, for his remarkable achievements in mesothelioma research.

Michele Carbone, MD, PhD is a Professor of Pathology and the Director of the University of Hawaii Cancer Center, a National Cancer Institute designated Consortium Cancer Center affiliated with the University of Hawaii – Manoa. He has published over 150 peer-reviewed papers, most in the area of the pathogenesis of mesothelioma.

In addition to his impressive publication record, Dr. Carbone is known in the mesothelioma community for his tireless work in the Turkish region of Cappadocia, where mesothelioma causes 50% of all deaths. Dr. Carbone discovered that a combination of environmental exposures and genetic predisposition were the reason for such a high incidence of mesothelioma among the villagers. Taking his role as a scientist a step further, alongside famed Turkish professor Izzettin Baris, Dr. Carbone demonstrated his compassion by convincing the Turkish government to move and rebuild the affected villages, thus removing them from the environmental exposures.

Dr. Carbone’s studies in Turkey led him to a life-long quest to identify genes implicated in mesothelioma. In 2001, he published in “The Lancet” that predisposition to developing mesothelioma was transmitted as an in an autosomal dominant character in certain Turkish families.

Subsequently, back in the United States, Dr. Carbone and Joseph Testa, PhD led their research team, which included Drs. Giovanni Gaudino, Harvey Pass, Jianming Pei, Mitchell Cheung, and Haining Yang, to study US families with a high incidence of mesothelioma, and through this collaboration discovered the “BAP1 cancer syndrome.” They found this “syndrome” to be caused by germline mutations of the BAP1 gene, which is characterized clinically by a very high risk of developing mesothelioma, melanoma, and other cancers.

Dr. Carbone is known in his field as a generous mentor, and has helped several prolific scientists enter the field of mesothelioma research. Dr. Haining Yang, is one researcher whose work with Dr. Carbone resulted in a peer-reviewed grant award of $100,000 from the Mesothelioma Applied Research Foundation which helped her to develop the data that allowed her two years later to win her NCI-RO1 and DOD grants to study mesothelioma.

“I have worked closely with Dr. Carbone over the years and have been impressed by his kindness and availability,” said Mary Hesdorffer, NP, Meso Foundation’s executive director. “He has been a leader in the field of mesothelioma research, and every one of his many contributions brings us that many steps closer to life-saving treatments for mesothelioma patients.”

The Pioneer Award honors individuals “pioneering” scientific advances in the field of mesothelioma, with the goal of eradicating the life-ending and vicious effects of mesothelioma. The award will be presented during the Awards Dinner, at the International Symposium on Malignant Mesothelioma in Alexandria, VA, on March 5-7.

Mesothelioma is a malignant tumor of the lining of the lung, abdomen, or heart known to be caused by exposure to asbestos. Medical experts consider it one of the most aggressive and deadly of all cancers. Approximately 3,500 Americans are diagnosed with mesothelioma every year and an estimated one-third were exposed while serving in the Navy or working in Navy shipyards.

ABOUT THE MESOTHELIOMA APPLIED RESEARCH FOUNDATION
The Meso Foundation is the only 501(c)3 non-profit organization dedicated to eradicating mesothelioma and easing the suffering caused by it. The Meso Foundation actively seeks philanthropic support to fund peer-reviewed mesothelioma research; provide patient support services and education; and advocate Congress for increased federal funding for mesothelioma research. The Meso Foundation is the only non-government funder of peer reviewed scientific research to establish more effective treatments for mesothelioma and, ultimately, a cure for this extremely aggressive cancer. To date, the Foundation has awarded over $8.7 million to research.

More information is available at http://www.curemeso.org.

Meso Foundation Participates in Prestigious Conference on Lung Cancer

IASLCOn October 27 – 30, Mary Hesdorffer, the executive director of the Mesothelioma Applied Research Foundation (Meso Foundation), and Melinda Kotzian, the chief executive officer of the Meso Foundation, are scheduled to attend and participate in the 15th World Conference on Lung Cancer  in Sydney, Australia, organized by the International Association for the Study of Lung Cancer (IASLC).

They will be representing the Mesothelioma Applied Research Foundation and will be raising awareness of mesothelioma amidst over 7,000 delegates from over 100 countries.

In her capacity as a nurse practitioner and an expert in mesothelioma treatment and care, Mary is scheduled to speak at several sessions, including one on the use of social media networks to communicate with and provide support to mesothelioma patients. Mary is a viewed as a pioneer in this area. As a speaker, Mary’s travel and lodging costs are entirely covered by IASLC.

Melinda’s travel costs are also covered through a grant by IASLC for which she applied earlier this year. She was one of five grant recipients from all over the world awarded travel grants to enable them to attend this important event.

The Meso Foundation will also be hosting a booth with information about mesothelioma and programs and services provided by the Foundation.