New Discovery: Asbestos Used in Byzantine Art

Asbestos fiberWhen we think of asbestos today, we often think of shipyards, construction sites, the automotive industry, and many other places the material was used merely decades ago. However, asbestos has a much longer history. Recent findings reported by LiveScience are now linking asbestos use to Byzantine artwork.

A new discovery from UCLA researchers reveals that Byzantine monks used asbestos in the 12th century as a coating for plaster beneath wall paintings. They found chrysotile, also known as white asbestos, in Cyprus at Enkleistra of St. Neophytos, a Byzantine monastery. By using the white asbestos in the plaster coating, the artist achieved a desirable, smooth surface for painting on the wall.

Researchers were not looking for asbestos, but made this discovery while studying the painting. They now plan to conduct further research into other artwork at the monastery and revisit other sites in Cyprus to see if the asbestos use was consistent. They hope to understand why the asbestos was used in this fashion during the time period.

Asbestos use is actually quite ancient and can be dated back 4,500 years to a time when it was mixed with clay to reinforce pottery. It has also been found in textiles dated 2,000 years ago that were used to make fireproof napkins. Asbestos made a comeback as a popular material in late 19th century industrial products, and it was used in construction for decades.

Due to the historical use of asbestos and its natural occurrence in soil, a countless number of people have been exposed to these fibers. Asbestos is a known carcinogenic material, and exposure is linked to the development of diseases, including mesothelioma, one of the most aggressive and deadly cancers. The latency period between asbestos exposure and development of mesothelioma ranges between 20-50 years, meaning that patients today were exposed decades ago, and patients of tomorrow have likely already been exposed.

Approximately 3,500 Americans are diagnosed with mesothelioma every year, and there is currently no cure. The Meso Foundation is the only non-government funder of peer-reviewed scientific research focused on prevention, early detection, development of effective treatments, and, ultimately, a cure for mesothelioma. You can learn more about this cancer and the asbestos-mesothelioma link at curemeso.org.

Stay Tuned this Fall for Three Regional Conferences on Mesothelioma

conferenceFollowing the successful conclusion of its annual Symposium, the Mesothelioma Applied Research Foundation (Meso Foundation) announced that later this year it will be the host of three regional conferences in Philadelphia, Chicago, and San Francisco, for mesothelioma patients, their families, and others interested in learning about the most up-to-date information on mesothelioma treatment. In a cancer like mesothelioma, for which patients generally must travel far and often just to consult with experts, the ability to meet mesothelioma specialists, listen to their talks, and engage with them one-on-one, without leaving the conference venue, is unique , but also of utmost importance.

“Informed and knowledgeable patients generally can make better decisions regarding their treatment and care than those unaware of all options, side-effects, and other considerations,” said Mary Hesdorffer, experienced nurse practitioner and executive director of the Meso Foundation.

The three conferences, organized in conjunction with the University of Pennsylvania, University of Chicago, and the University of California San Francisco, are meant to provide patients across the country with similar, albeit condensed, benefits of the organization’s annual Symposium (expert presentations, support sessions, socialization with peers and experts), but with less travel and with only a one-day commitment.

The conferences will be scheduled as follows and more information will be made available a thttp://www.curemeso.org. The Foundation encourages everyone interested to sign up for its e-newsletter, through which it will make detailed conference information, including dates, available in the next few months.

September – at the University of Pennsylvania (Philadelphia)
October – at the University of Chicago (Chicago)
November – at the University of California San Francisco (San Francisco)

Asbestos Awareness Week: Counteracting Decades of Damage with Research?

AsbestosAwarenessWeek2014During the first week of April, the Mesothelioma Applied Research Foundation (Meso Foundation) will observe Asbestos Awareness Week while raising awareness of the deep damage inflicted by asbestos’ use and the overdue need for life-saving treatments and a cure for those who have already developed, or who will develop, mesothelioma. Mesothelioma is a cancer known to be caused by exposure to asbestos. The latency period between asbestos exposure and development of mesothelioma ranges between 20 – 50 years, meaning that patients of today were exposed decades ago, but also that patients of tomorrow have likely already been exposed.

Medical experts consider mesothelioma as one of the most aggressive and deadly of all cancers. With a 5-year survival rate in the single digits, mesothelioma currently has no cure. 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 shipyards.

Asbestos, a catch-all term to describe a group of naturally-occurring mineral fibers, was used in construction for decades. Workers in a number of industries and occupations were regularly exposed to high amounts of asbestos fibers. Although, the United States has placed heavy regulations on its use, asbestos has still not been completely banned and continues to be used.

Today, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates that asbestos is still present in tens of millions of homes, government buildings, schools, etc. Asbestos has also been found naturally-occurring in the soil in several locations in the United States, sometimes in very close proximity to inhabited areas. When disturbed, asbestos particles become airborne and are easily inhaled. Scientists have identified that no amount of exposure is safe.

“Unfortunately, asbestos’ prevalence has put all of us at risk,” said Mary Hesdorffer, nurse practitioner and executive director of the Meso Foundation.

“Given the extremely long latency period for developing mesothelioma, for thousands of Americans, the damage has already been done — the asbestos has been inhaled. Now it is our responsibility to invest in prevention research and to make sure that if they develop mesothelioma, life-saving treatments and a cure are waiting for them,” added Ms. Hesdorffer.

The Meso Foundation is the only non-government funder of peer-reviewed scientific research focused on prevention, early detection, development of effective treatments, 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.

Thank You from Mary Hesdorffer

Mary Hesdorfferby Mary Hesdorffer, NP, Executive Director of the Meso Foundation

It feels like a time warp as we move from project to project, one day blending into the next. We are deeply immersed in planning three regional conferences before this year ends, and projecting what is in store for us in 2015.

I would like to take this opportunity to personally thank all of those who participated in our 2014 Symposium, which took place in early March. It is so important that we gather together to address the individual and global needs of the mesothelioma community. Weren’t our doctors amazing? I was so grateful that they came out in large numbers to support us and to impart valuable knowledge and support to those in need.

I would also like to thank the individual members of the staff who made the conference appear so effortless.

Erin Maas was responsible for the site location and all of the logistics that go along with running a conference. Thank you, Erin, for a job well done.

Maja Belamaric and Beth Posocco were in charge of communications and marketing the conference, work that is not always visible to the public. The live stream attracted nearly 600 viewers thanks to their tireless efforts to ensure that it was properly managed and advertised.

Erica Ruble was the unofficial hostess of the event making sure that everyone was welcomed and warmly introduced to others. Her fundraising knowledge and encouragement to others has helped us to grow exponentially.

Dana Purcell was responsible for planning many of the supportive care and fundraising sessions. I think we can all testify to a job well done and we look forward to her continued work on community events and individual fundraisers over the upcoming year.

Last but not least is our government affairs director, Jessica Barker. Jessica is well-known on the hill championing our causes and making valuable connections with politicians and government entities to provide our community with a strong voice in Washington. You will see Jessica making her rounds to many political events and she is a sage advisor to both Melinda and me. If you are planning to attend the ADAO conference taking place in Washington, DC in April, please introduce yourself to Jessica as she will be representing the Foundation at this asbestos-focused event. Unfortunately, I will be unable to attend, but I wish Linda Reinstein a successful conference.

Finally, our CEO Melinda is really owed a debt of gratitude for managing the business side of the Foundation and ensuring our financial health so we can remain strong in achieving the goals of our mission. It is a pleasure to work closely with Melinda as she brings her impressive non-profit background into the discussion and helps me to advance the scientific agenda of the Foundation, proving continuously that two heads are better than one!

Keep in close touch with me and let me know your thoughts on how we are doing. Also, we will soon be announcing the date and time for another telephonic town-hall meeting to discuss the future and current state of the Foundation.

Symposium Videos, Photos Now Available!

2014 Symposium Photos

In early March, the Meso Foundation held its 11th International Symposium on Malignant Mesothelioma in Alexandria, Virginia. We welcomed attendees from all over the world, including patients, caregivers, doctors, researchers, and so many others. The event was a huge success.

WEDNESDAY
Wednesday morning began as attendees gathered for breakfast before heading off to Capitol Hill for Advocacy Day. This is the time when the entire meso community welcomes the opportunity to educate our law-makers about mesothelioma and the need for mesothelioma research funding. This video gives a brief overview of the day.

Wednesday night concluded with a Welcome Reception for all attendees. The reception began with a keynote speech from Dr. Dean Fennel and then moved on to a night of passed hors d’oeurve, drinks, and socializing with the community. This was the first of many chances for attendees to mingle with old friends and make new ones. Take a look at some photos from the event!

THURSDAY
Thursday morning began with a Celebration of Life ceremony, which culminated in a release of doves over the pond outside the hotel. The theme of the ceremony was hope, compassion, and community.

Dove release

Doves were released during the Celebration of Life at the Symposium

The Foundation’s executive director, Mary Hesdorffer, NP, kicked off the day of sessions with a welcome speech in which she introduced the Meso Foundation’s staff, Board of Directors, and Science Advisory Board. We then heard from two keynote speakers: Dr. Ira Pastan, Head of the Molecular Biology Section of the National Cancer Institute, followed by Dr. Raffit Hassan.

Meso community

Every year, the community loves to get together at the Symposium. They find time to socialize even with a tight agenda!

Thursday continued with informative scientific and community sessions, started by Dr. Faris Farassati who discussed cancer stem cells. Mary was then joined by Dr. Marc DePerrot, Dr. Dan Miller, and Dr. James Pingpank to discuss post-surgical recovery. Dr. Tobias Peikert and Dr. Dan Sterman covered the topic of pulmonary health. In nonmedical sessions, Olga Pavlick led a newly bereaved discussion group, while Jessica Barker was joined by Rich Mosca and Hanne Mintz to discuss the importance of getting a proclamation in your area to officially declare September 26th as Mesothelioma Awareness Day. Miriam Ratner, Rev. Eric Linthicum, and Dana Purcell held a panel discussing the healing arts. Other topics of the day included exercise and nutrition, novel therapeutics, radiation oncology, chemotherapy, and early detection.

Thursday night concluded with an Awards Dinner. The dinner was MCed by Dr. Joseph Friedberg and Dr. Dan Sterman of the University of Pennsylvania, who did a great job keeping the atmosphere light-hearted and fun. We hope they never quit their day jobs, but surely they could also make a career in comedy!

Congresswoman Pingree

Congresswoman Pingree (center) with her constituent Lisa Gonneville (right) and Mary Hesdorffer, NP (left)

We were honored to have Congresswoman Chellie Pingree in attendance to accept the Bruce Vento Hope Builder Award, and she gave a powerful speech about her dedication to our cause and the need for mesothelioma research funding.

AWARDS
Rev. Eric Linthicum was presented the Compassion Award for his caring nature and dedication to the Foundation’s community. Dr. Michele Carbone received the Pioneer Award for his advancements in mesothelioma research. The Klaus Brauch Volunteer of the Year Award was presented to Olga Pavlick and Sarah Pavlick for their incredible efforts in organizing fundraising events and volunteering with the Meso Foundation. Anne Alessandrini received the June Breit and Jocelyn Farrar Outstanding Nurse Award for her passionate work in the Thoracic ICU at Brigham and Women’s Hospital. Jocelyn Farrar’s daughter presented the award to Anne. We also had a surprise award, the Philanthropy Award, which we presented to Don Bendix for his financial dedication to the Meso Foundation and mesothelioma research funding.

FRIDAY
Friday morning, the community was up bright and early for another day of sessions. The day began with a translation of the Scientific Seminar from Dr. H. Richard Alexander. He was then joined by Dr. Lee Krug to discuss the current state of mesothelioma research. Friday was not all about science, however, as we also held sessions such as yoga, walking for health, and art therapy. Following a brief update on the state of the Meso Foundation, Melinda Kotzian moderated a panel about getting involved and how you can help the Foundation. We heard from Maja Belamaric, Dana Purcell, Bonnie Anderson, Erica Ruble, Marina Mintz, and Rich Mosca on the many, many ways to get involved – from simply telling your story to events and advocacy. Other sessions of the day included a legislative update with Jessica Barker, a session with the American Legion, a talk on the empowered patient from Mary Hesdorffer, a session on chemo brain, a session on how to host a fundraising event as well as a fundraising panel, and more.

Meso Fighters Band

The Meso Fighters Band took the stage at the Community Dinner

Friday night served as a celebration wrapping up another successful Symposium. The Community Dinner was more like a community party than anything else. After an excellent buffet, attendees were surprised with a choreographed dance from Melinda Kotzian and Mary Hesdorffer (don’t worry – we have a video!). Following suit, much of the community took to the dance floor as the Meso Fighters Band took the stage. The Meso Fighters Band, which is made up of patients, doctors, and bereaved, played multiple sets featuring a playlist that mixed rock and pop. We heard everything from Janis Joplin to Katy Perry, and it was all fantastic. We ended the Meso Foundation’s 11th International Symposium on Malignant Mesothelioma with a celebration of our incredible community.

TAKE A LOOK
We have released videos of many sessions and speeches from the event. Watch the videos on our YouTube channel.

You can also check out some photos from the Symposium!