Taking It to the Bank: Reflections on the 2012 IAHFIAW Conference

Last week I had the distinct pleasure of attending here in Washington D.C. the International Association of Heat & Frost Insulators and Allied Workers Conference, a one-day event calling together physicians, scientists and researchers to announce their partnership with Mt. Sinai Medical Center in establishing a tissue bank (Insulators Tissue Bank or ITB).

Representing the Meso Foundation, I was delighted to be a part of this event that so closely aligns with our interests. This tissue bank is being established as a repository of asbestos-related-tumor tissue specimens and fluid samples from a highly exposed population of asbestos insulators in order to support research that aims to better understand the mechanisms of asbestos-induced cancer, and to develop interventions and cures for asbestos-related cancers, such as mesothelioma.

The Insultators Union General President, James A. Grogan, is currently issuing a call to action to approximately 8,000 insulators to participate by agreeing to donate tissue samples should they be diagnosed and treated for an asbestos-related disease.  He plans to soon expand participation in the ITB to other trade unions that also have high incidence of asbestos-related disease.

Tissue Banks are useful, important resources that researchers regularly rely on in order to advance their fields of study. In this case, they look to study actual samples from people with documented exposure to asbestos, in the laboratory to find new ways to diagnose, treat and prevent asbestos-related conditions, including mesothelioma.

In 2006, the Mesothelioma Applied Research Foundation joined with the University of Pittsburgh, University of Pennsylvania and New York University to establish the National Mesothelioma Virtual Bank (NMVB), the first tissue bank dealing with mesothelioma.  The NMVB collaborative effort is led by the Departments of Biomedical Informatics, Epidemiology, and Pathology at the University of Pittsburgh, and is funded by a grant from the National Institute of Occupational Health and Safety of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Speaking at the Insulators’ Medical Conference were Dr. Raja Flores, of Mount Sinai Medical Center, Dr. Michael Becich, University of Pittsburgh, Dr. Harvey Pass, NYU Langone Medical Center and Dr. Joseph Testa of Fox Chase Cancer Center.  The Meso Foundation’s own Mary Hesdorffer also gave an update on currently available mesothelioma clinical trials.

Early diagnosis and treatment of asbestos-related disease, particularly mesothelioma, is desperately needed.  The Meso Foundation was thrilled to participate in the Insulators Medical Conference and applauds the efforts and commitment of President Grogan and the Insulators Union on this initiative. It was also a delight for me to connect with others dedicated to eradicating this disease. My sincerest thanks to all of those who gave their time to talk with me; the Foundation’s Medical Liaison, Mary Hesdorffer; and our Government Affairs Coordinator, Jessica Barker. Please, if you are ever in attendance at one of these events and see us out and about, do not hesitate to talk with us. We are always happy to answer questions and share ideas and efforts in combatting mesothelioma, much as the International Association of Heat & Frost Insulators and Allied Workers and their partners at Mt. Sinai Medical Center were doing last week in Washington.

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