RECAP: Symposium tour kicks off in Minneapolis!

On Friday morning, we made our first stop on the 2018 International Symposium on Malignant Mesothelioma tour in Minneapolis, MN! Our executive director Mary Hesdoffer, NP and Science Advisory Board chair Dr. Tobias Peikert welcomed attendees to the one-day conference followed by an overview of our work in research, education, support and advocacy by director of communications Maja Belamaric.

In an effort to make sure all attendees were on the same page, Mary gave a quick mesothelioma overview of that included challenges, what patients should know and the needs of mesothelioma patients and their families.

Palliative Care
Jacob Strand, MD – Mayo Clinic

Dr. Strand tweet

There is a common misconception that palliative care is only for those who are dying or need of hospice. Dr. Strand stressed that palliative care is actually entirely about improving a patient’s quality of life. If you’re interested in learning more about palliative care, visit

The Importance of Genetics in Mesothelioma
Muaiad Kittaneh, MD – Loyola University

After an overview of cancer-associated gene mutations, Dr. Kittaneh talked about the BAP1 gene — the most commonly mutated gene in malignant mesothelioma. Following a mesothelioma epidemic in Cappadocia, Turkey in the late 1970s, researchers discovered carriers of germline BAP1 mutations have a very high risk of developing mesothelioma and other malignancies. In Dr. Kittaneh’s personal opinion, there must be an institutional collaboration to work on the effects of genetics in mesothelioma. 

Peritoneal Mesothelioma
Jason Foster, MD – University of Nebraska
Explaining that the peritoneal cavity is often called the “overlooked” organ, Dr. Foster spoke on the effectiveness of peritoneal discovery methods (MRI vs. CT scan) and treatments (CRS/HIPEC) as well as future trends with peritoneal mesothelioma. 

Managing Disease & Treatment-Related Toxicities
Tobias Peikert, MD – Mayo Clinic
Dr. Peikert provided an overview of mesothelioma treatment, including chemotherapy, extrapleural pneumonectomy, pleurectomy, radiation therapy, immunotherapy and pleural catheter. He also explained how to manage treatment-related toxicities.

Radiation Therapy
Kenneth Merrell, MD – Mayo Clinic
Building on Dr. Peikert’s discussion on radiation therapy, Dr. Merrell delved deeper into the treatment and explained the difference between electron, x-ray and proton delivery techniques as well as palliative radiation. He also described the role of radiation before and after mesothelioma treatment surgeries and its impact on a patient’s overall survival. 

Novel Strategies for Mesothelioma Treatment After Failure of Front Line Therapy
Arek Dudek, MD, PhD – University of Minnesota
Session in memory of Theresa Opalinski
Dr. Dudek described new strategies for treatment after a front line therapy fails, specifically immunotherapy and the possibility that it could become a significant breakthrough for treatment mesothelioma. He recommended participation in clinical trials to help speed up discovery of effective treatment.

Strategies for Newly Diagnosed Mesothelioma and Clinical Trial Updates
Aaron Mansfield, MD – Mayo Clinic
Session in memory of Theresa Opalinski
Dr. Mansfield provided an update on clinical trials — including his own trial being done at the Mayo Clinic. He also discussed novel approaches to mesothelioma treatment in development. Those included the following:

  • Chemotherapy followed by immunotherapy
  • Chemotherapy + ADI-PEG followed by immunotherapy
  • Immunotherapy followed by chemotherapy
  • Anti-mesothelin followed by chemotherapy
  • Chemotherapy followed by anti-mesothelin

Following the presentations, there was a Q&A panel where attendees could ask the expert speakers their questions. We then moved into the community forum. Mary stressed to everyone that the Meso Foundation is their foundation. It exists because of the mesothelioma community. We cannot do what we do without the community.

The conference concluded with a cocktail reception for all attendees to reconnect with old friends, meet new ones and mingle with staff and speakers.

On Saturday morning, our bereaved community gathered for a special Celebration of Life butterfly release ceremony in memory of their loved ones. The ceremony was lead by our development assistant Erica Ruble, who lost her father, Lance, to mesothelioma in August 2008.

The 2018 International Symposium on Malignant Mesothelioma was made possible by our wonderful sponsors. Thank you to Bristol-Myers Squibb; Simmons Hanly Conroy; Early, Lucarelli, Sweeney, Meisenkothen; Belluck & Fox, LLP; Boehringer Ingelheim, and Vogelzang Law P.C.

Join us as the tour continues in New York City on Friday, Oct. 5!

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