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.

BREAKING NEWS: SS1P Clinical Trial Results Published

Raffit_hassanToday, the Science Translational Medicine journal published the article “Major Cancer Regressions in Mesothelioma After Treatment with an Anti-Mesothelin Immunotoxin and Immune Suppression” by Dr. Raffit Hassan of the NCI, former chair and current member of the Meso Foundation’s Science Advisory Board.

Dr. Hassan explains:

Very few treatment options exist for patients with mesothelioma who have failed chemotherapy. In this months issue of Science Translational Medicine scientists from the National Cancer Institute report a promising treatment that may benefit some patients with mesothelioma. This treatment involves an immunotoxin (which consists of an antibody linked to a potent toxin) SS1P developed in Dr. Ira Pastan’s lab at the NCI, that targets the protein mesothelin present on mesothelioma cells. In previous trials SS1P had limited activity since most patients developed antibodies against the drug. However, in the current study, led by Dr. Raffit Hassan at the NCI, using two other drugs, pentostatin and cytoxan, which suppress part of the immune system, they were able to give patients more doses of SS1P. Out of the 10 evaluable patients treated 3 patients had significant tumor shrinkage and all three patients are alive more than 18 months after starting therapy. In addition, 2 patients who had previously progressed on chemotherapy had a tumor response when treated with chemotherapy following SS1P. Although a small study, these responses in patients who had advanced treatment refractory disease are encouraging and the investigators plan to conduct a larger study to validate these results.

The abstract of the study can be found here. The article was also followed by an editorial by Dr. Ravi Salgia and Dr. Martin Sattler: Sci Transl Med-2013-Salgia-208fs38.

For more information, please contact Mary Hesdorffer, Nurse Practitioner at mary@curemeso.org, (703) 879-3820, or use our Ask the Expert feature to get answers to your questions.

Importance of Dental Hygiene for Mesothelioma Patients

mouth_smallCancer therapies often result in xerostomia (dry mouth), a condition that can lead to increased risk of infection and cavities. Bacteria in the mouth are kept in check by saliva, which is a crucial fist line of defense in maintaining good oral health. When there isn’t enough saliva produced, or the amount available isn’t enough to clear infection-causing bacteria, it is possible to develop sores and excoriated tissue. Dry mouth is also a causative factor of malodorous breath and cavities, as food particles are not cleared away as quickly as they would be in a well-hydrated state.

Symptoms of dry mouth include stringy saliva, cracked or dry lips, difficulty speaking, and a burning sensation. When the mouth becomes too dry, chewing and swallowing are affected and may increase the risk of aspiration pneumonia, a life-threatening condition for at-risk cancer patients.

In mesothelioma patients, xerostomia is most often caused by chemotherapy, but lack of hydration and sometimes radiation can also be the culprits.

Xerostomia can be treated with medications to stimulate the production of saliva or with over-the-counter chewing gum and mouthwashes, depending on the severity.

Scheduling a dentist appointment before initiation of chemotherapy is a good practice to follow in order to identify and correct any dental conditions. Once chemotherapy has begun, patients should  brush 3 to 4 times daily, as vomiting and acid reflux are known to erode dental enamel. During this period, fluid intake should also be increased and gentle flossing should be continued. If platelets become low, patients should discontinue flossing until advised to resume.

It is important for mesothelioma patients to schedule regular dental check-ups. Because some dental interventions should not be performed when a patient is at a high risk for infection or bleeding, patients should inform their dentists if they are receiving chemotherapy treatments.

Bowel Obstructions in Patients with Peritoneal Mesothelioma

Mary Hesdorffer, NPPatients with peritoneal mesothelioma appear to be at an increased risk of bowel obstructions either due to disease or perhaps as a consequence of their treatment. They can be caused by adhesions (scar tissue) and/or tumors among other predisposing conditions. Signs of a bowel obstruction include abdominal pain, cessation of bowel movement, absence of bowel sounds and inability to digest food.  Patients might also vomit fecal material.

Bowel obstructions are considered to be a medical emergency and require immediate attention. However, not all obstructions require surgery. Patients are often admitted to the hospital where they receive IV hydration. A nasal gastric tube is placed to remove stomach contents thus permitting the bowel to rest and inflammation to resolve on its own. Symptoms usually resolve 3-5 days following this intervention. In some cases it may be necessary to perform a surgical procedure to remove the mass or adhesion thus freeing the bowel to receive the necessary blood supply to remain healthy and functional. Patients with symptoms consistent with a bowel obstruction should contact their medical team immediately.

If a bowel obstruction is suspected, the patient will undergo a series of abdominal X-rays which can help diagnose an obstruction and determine if it is located in the large or small intestine.

Some symptoms of obstruction may lead to the diagnosis of an ileus, which is a functional obstruction caused by the absence of peristalsis, without a true blockage. It can be the result of narcotics or side-effect of some chemotherapeutic drugs or other administered medications. Sometimes medication to increase gastric motility can help in reversing this condition and surgery is usually not indicated in this situation. Patients are often discharged from the hospital with instructions to continue with regimens that will help to produce increased bowel evacuation.

For questions about treatment options, clinical trials, side-effect, or general support, patients are encouraged to contact Mary Hesdorffer, Nurse Practitioner. Ms. Hesdorffer is the executive director of the Mesothelioma Applied Research Foundation. She received her undergraduate degree at the College of New Rochelle in NY and went on to receive her Masters of Science at the same institution. She is fully credentialed as a nurse practitioner and has spent 16 years actively treating patients with mesothelioma.

Mary has an expertise in the development and implementation of clinical trials. She is published in peer-reviewed journals and has lectured nationally on topics pertaining to mesothelioma with particular emphasis on clinical trials as well as symptom and disease management.

Mary is a strong voice in urging increased transparency to the medical and legal issues surrounding mesothelioma with a strong emphasis on ethics.

She is passionate in her commitment to the treatment and management of this disease and hopes to increase awareness of the need to advance the science that will lead to a cure. She is available via phone or email to assist patients and caregivers as they regain control after being thrust into the chaos of this disease.