Updates from ASCO: CRS-207 Vaccine Study Results

MicroscopeAduro BioTech is conducting a clinical trial to test an investigational new immunotherapy for malignant pleural mesothelioma (MPM). This therapy, called CRS-207, is given to a patient in combination with chemotherapy in hopes of encouraging the body’s normal defense mechanisms to fight off the cancer. This trial aims to enroll up to 60 patients at 5 U.S. clinical sites. The company presented data at the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) conference this week showing that of the 32 patients with MPM treated with CRS-207 and chemotherapy, MPM tumors reduced in size for 19 patients, and tumors remained the same size (stable) in an additional 11 patients. CRS-207 is given prior to and after chemotherapy (cyclophosphamide, pemetrexed and cisplatin) for patients who have not received prior treatment or surgery for their disease.

If you are interested in participating in a clinical trial for this investigational new therapy, please click here.

The 2015 ASCO Annual Meeting, one of the largest oncology meetings of the year, was held from May 29 to June 2 in Chicago, Illinois. The Meso Foundation will be providing more information on studies presented at ASCO in the coming weeks.

Meso Foundation Partners with Insulators Union to Fund Scholarship

Alissa BahrAlissa Bahr, a student at the University of Notre Dame, is this year’s recipient of special funding provided by the Meso Foundation and the International Association of Heat and Frost Insulators (Insulators), for a summer internship at the University of Chicago Medicine. She will be mentored by Drs. Kindler and Salgia, with whom she will work on research and in a clinic setting.

Ms. Bahr is a student at the University of Notre Dame. Her interest in mesothelioma research began last year when she became the recipient of the very first James A. Grogan Fellowship for Excellence. Ms. Bahr has already interned with Dr. Kindler last summer, when she was given the opportunity to participate in all aspects of the program.

“Last summer, I worked on a completely retrospective study, the goal of which was to look at the demographics, genetic data, and treatment response of 56 mesothelioma patients treated by Dr. Kindler,” said Ms. Bahr.

This summer, she will be returning with the goal of transferring the applications of the previous study into a laboratory project, studying the biological effect of different genetic mutations on tissue growth and tumor development. This particular internship, and the guidance she received from Drs. Kindler and Salgia, has solidified Ms. Bahr’s interest in medicine and mesothelioma research.

“I am blessed to have the support of the Meso Foundation and the Insulators Union,” she added.

Ms. Bahr also feels profoundly grateful for this experience because it has allowed her to meet “the best mentor a student could ask for – Dr. Kindler.”

For Dr. Kindler and her team, the feeling is mutual.

“It was such a joy to work with Alissa last summer. She was enthusiastic, energetic, very bright, and eager to learn as much as she could. We are so delighted to have her back with us,” said Dr. Kindler.

The Meso Foundation has been the leader in independent peer-reviewed funding for mesothelioma research. Part of the Foundation’s mission is rooted in providing incentives for young researchers to study mesothelioma. Since awarding its first research grant in 2000, the Meso Foundation has funded over 94 mesothelioma-related projects to date, amounting to more than $9 million.

The insulators, with one in ten of their workers affected by asbestos-related diseases, are at an increased risk of developing mesothelioma. In addition to providing financial support of research, education, patient support, and advocacy, the Insulators have recently founded a tissue bank to collect tissues and/or blood serum from volunteer insulators which is a crucial tool for scientists devoted to mesothelioma research. President Grogan has been a loyal ally and powerful advocate for the meso community, and in 2015, he received the Bruce Vento Hope Builder Award for his work. His explanation of why advancing mesothelioma research is important to the Insulators is as simple as it is powerful.

“If we don’t do this, who will?”

LISTEN: Meet the Mesothelioma Experts Interview with Drs. Simone and Alley Now Available

Penn MedicineOn Thursday, May 14, the Meso Foundation interviewed Dr. Charles Simone and Dr. Evan Alley of the University of Pennsylvania Medicine during the Meet the Mesothelioma Experts series. The session was part of a series of interviews focusing on mesothelioma centers of excellence. Drs. Simone and Alley were interviewed by the Meso Foundation’s executive director, Mary Hesdorffer, with whom they discussed the mesothelioma program at the University of Pennsylvania Medicine.

The full interview is now available on demand on the Meso Foundation’s website at curemeso.org/experts.

Drs. Alley and Simone are the co-directors of the Penn Mesothelioma and Pleural Program. Dr. Alley is a medical oncologist and is the leading investigator in the PD-1 inhibitor trial that has recently made big news in mesothelioma. Read more about the trial here. Dr. Simone treats patients with malignant pleural mesothelioma with photon and proton radiation therapy and photodynamic therapy (PDT). He is a National Institutes of Health and Department of Defense funded investigator who performs clinical and translational research investigating the novel use of proton therapy and PDT as definitive therapy and as part of multi-modality therapy for mesothelioma.

As part of the Meet the Mesothelioma Experts series, the Meso Foundation invites specialists in the field of mesothelioma to discuss their current research interests as well as promising developments in the treatment of mesothelioma.

You can listen to this interview and other previous Meet the Mesothelioma Experts sessions at curemeso.org/experts.

The Work of the Meso Foundation is a Family Affair: Honoring Lotte

LotteLotte has done it all! She has stuffed envelopes, hand-written thank you notes, peeled hundreds (!) of potatoes, washed as many dishes, cared for mesothelioma patients who have stayed in her home, financially supported the Meso Foundation – all in the name of finding a cure for mesothelioma.

She is not a mesothelioma patient, and nobody in her family is a mesothelioma patient. She doesn’t have any friends with mesothelioma (other than the ones she met through the Foundation), and she may not have ever known about mesothelioma had Mary Hesdorffer (the Foundation’s executive director) not entered her life many years ago. Lotte is Mary’s mother-in-law.

To anyone who has ever worked in the non-profit sector, the notion of family members helping with events and performing office work is not foreign. At the Meso Foundation, too, our family members are as passionate as we are about this important cause and mission, so it’s not surprising that they often donate their time and effort to help us achieve our goals. We are immensely grateful to all of them.

During this past year, Lotte has had health setbacks of her own. Diagnosed with pancreatic cancer about a year ago, she has gone through surgery, a difficult recovery, radiation, chemotherapy, and recently, a recurrence.

A holocaust survivor and a breast cancer survivor, she has been an inspiration to all of us.

During this difficult time, we want Lotte to know that we are so very grateful for her and her contributions, and also simply for her presence.

Stay strong, dear friend!

Thank You to Our Heroes on Memorial Day

American flagsIn 2013, we published a blog post for Memorial Day. This year, we want to take a look back at this post, as it remains important. The original post follows:

Memorial Day is the time when we honor those who served our country and paid the ultimate price for our freedom. The Mesothelioma Applied Research Foundation honors those men and women who lost their lives as a result of their service, including those who served in the military and succumbed to malignant mesothelioma.

“In honor of those who have fallen victim to mesothelioma and for those who have been exposed and may develop mesothelioma in the future, the Foundation dedicates our efforts to continuing to fund peer-reviewed medical research that we hope will lead to prevention, early detection, more effective treatments and eventually a cure,” said General H. Steven Blum, a member of the Board of Directors of the Meso Foundation.

One third of mesothelioma patients worked in shipyards or are veterans who were exposed to asbestos during their time of service. Those who serve in the military often go on to careers in the public sector serving as policemen, firemen and first responders where they again suffer the insult of asbestos exposure.

General Blum last served as Deputy Commander, U.S. Northern Command in addition to serving as Vice Commander, U.S. Element North American Aerospace Defense Command.  Prior to these last positions he served as the 25th Chief of the National Guard Bureau. He retired from both the Army and National Guard in 2010.

To learn more about asbestos exposure in the military, visit curemeso.org/asbestos.