Mesothelioma Researcher Receives Prestigious Grant from Department of Defense

Marjorie ZaudererMarjorie Zauderer, MD, is a medical oncologist at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center specializing in the care of lung cancer and mesothelioma patients, and serves as a member of the Meso Foundation’s Science Advisory Board. Recently, Dr. Zauderer was granted the Career Development Award to fund her mesothelioma research project.

Dr. Zauderer received the Career Development Award for her current research project involving the role of the BAP 1 gene (BRCA associated protein-1) in mesothelioma. Inherited mutations in the BAP1 gene have been shown to predispose patients to malignant pleural mesothelioma. “A better understanding of this gene could mean a better understanding of mesothelioma and how it develops in patients,” Zauderer states.

Dr. Zauderer began working on this project three years ago and has been gathering specimens and samples throughout this time. She predicts that enough samples will be collected within the next year or two to begin analysis that could yield significant insights and statistics. Her goal in 3 to 5 years is to have a plausible drug that has already completed phase 1 testing or is ready to begin phase 1 testing in clinical trials.

In an interview, Dr. Zauderer expressed her passion for her work, citing her many college application essays that she recently came across. “All my applications were about how I wanted to use genetics to help medicine. 20 years later, that’s actually what I do,” Zauderer states.

The Career Development Award provides funding from the Department of Defense to support a specific research project. Funding is provided to the selected project over a three year period, during which certain research components must be met and specific goals achieved. Mesothelioma is a disease of interest to the Department of Defense, as an estimated one third of mesothelioma patients either served in the Navy or worked in shipyards.

Learn more about Marjorie Zauderer at curemeso.org.

2015 Symposium to be Co-Hosted with the NCI and Held at the NIH

International Symposium on Malignant MesotheliomaThis year, the Meso Foundation has partnered with the National Cancer Institute (NCI) to co-host the International Symposium on Malignant Mesothelioma. As a result, the conference will be hosted on the grounds of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in Bethesda, Maryland. The NIH is one of the world’s foremost medical research centers.

This conference is geared to attendees from all walks of life, including patients and their families, advocates, medical professionals, those who have lost loved ones to mesothelioma, and scientists. The Symposium provides a unique setting for everyone in the meso community to come together, learn about mesothelioma and its treatments from renowned experts, build friendships and socialize.

The Symposium will be held from March 2nd through 4th at the NIH and the Hyatt Regency Bethesda. Daytime Symposium sessions will be held on the NIH campus, while evening dinners will be held at the Hyatt Regency Bethesda. The NIH campus is located only a few minutes away from the hotel, and we will provide shuttles between the two locations in the morning and afternoon of March 2nd and 3rd. Symposium attendees can also travel between the locations via Metro (stops are convenient to both the hotel and the NIH) or by taxi.

Register

Sessions will cover a range of topics about pleural and peritoneal mesothelioma, treatments, clinical trials, surgery, prevention, as well as support groups, well-being and community sessions. A mesothelioma Advocacy Day will be held on Capitol Hill on Wednesday, March 4th. View the full Symposium agenda here.

In addition to our science and treatment sessions for the general public, this year’s Symposium includes a two-day special session for scientists and medical professionals. Nearly 100 mesothelioma experts will come together to share their work, and find collaborative opportunities, in an effort to speed up mesothelioma advances. The scientists and medical professionals in attendance will be available during sessions common to both groups, such as lunches and dinners, to answer any questions and to socialize. A recap and “translation” of the sessions for scientists and medical professionals will be presents on Tuesday evening in the main Symposium session for the general public.

It is a privilege and an honor to host our Symposium on the campus of the National Institutes of Health, and we hope to see you all at the event. Learn more about the Symposium at curemeso.org/symposium or register here.

A Look at the Advancing Breakthrough Therapies for Patients Act

Dr. Mary Hesdorffer, NP, Executive Director, Mesothelioma Applied Research Foundation takes a look at the Advancing Breakthrough Therapies for Patients Act.by Mary Hesdorffer, NP, Executive Director, Mesothelioma Applied Research Foundation

The Advancing Breakthrough Therapies for Patients Act was first introduced in the Senate by Senators Bennet ( D-CO), Hatch (R-UT) and Burr (R-NC). Two months later, Congresswoman DeGette (D-CO) and Congressman Bilbray (R-CA) introduced the act in the House of Representatives. The bills, which received bipartisan support, were included as an amendment to the Food and Drug Administration’s Safety and Innovation Act (FDASIA), the latest iteration of the Prescription Drug User Fee bill, and in July of 2012, the breakthrough therapy designation was signed into law.

As a result of this law, a new drug may be designated as a breakthrough therapy if it is intended to treat a serious or life-threatening disease, and if preliminary clinical evidence suggests it provides a substantial improvement over existing therapies. Once a breakthrough therapy designation is granted, the FDA and drug sponsor work together to determine the most efficient path forward. In just two years, 178 requests for breakthrough designation have been submitted, 44 designations have been granted, and 6 drugs have been approved within the program.

On May 6 of this year, Mary Hesdorffer, the executive director of the Meso Foundation, and Melinda Kotzian, its chief executive officer, attended the congressional briefing titled Friends of Cancer Research, which focused on evaluating the progress of this program.

The panel agreed that the next task will be to streamline the process. This will eliminate applications that absolutely do not meet the criteria for breakthrough designation.

Janet Woodcock, MD, director, of the Center for Drug Evaluation and Research within Food and Drug Administration, stated that they “are not planning on moving drugs through this process that offer only incremental progress, but those that demonstrate a substantial benefit.”

Two representatives of the pharmaceutical industry shared their companies’ experience in gaining the first designation under this act. They noted that the time and commitment of all parties involved made this process work.

Dr. Woodcock cautioned that sequestration had an impact on the financing of this program. It will take more funding to continue operating the Breakthrough Therapies program at the present level, but she hopes that streamlining the process will allow for a more drugs to reach the patients in need.

First Congressional Cancer Hearing in Six Years a Success

Congressional Cancer Research Hearing

by Jessica Barker, Director of Government Affairs, Mesothelioma Applied Research Foundation

Wednesday afternoon, the Senate Special Committee on Aging held a hearing on cancer research featuring Dr. Harold Varmus, Director of the National Cancer Institute (NCI) and actress Valerie Harper, a survivor of Leptomeningeal carcinomatosis (LC), a rare complication of cancer in the brain. This was the first Congressional hearing with a dedicated focus on cancer in six years. The hearing, titled The Fight Against Cancer: Challenges, Progress, and Promise examined federal funding for cancer research and recent treatment improvements, and explored challenges facing survivors and scientists.

The hearing gave each of the five witnesses the opportunity to give testimony, which was followed by questions from the Members of the Committee. The witnesses included:

  • Harold E. Varmus, MD, Director, National Cancer Institute, National Institutes of Health
  • Valerie Harper, Actress and Cancer Survivor
  • Thomas Sellers, PhD, MPH, Director, H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center and Research Institute
  • Mary Dempsey, Assistant Director and Co-Founder, The Patrick Dempsey Center for Cancer Hope and Healing
  • Chip Kennett, Advocate and Cancer Survivor

Each witness gave a powerful opening statement. Valerie Harper urged Members of Congress to think of cancer research dollars as an investment rather than spending. Ms. Harper also voiced a hopeful message for cancer patients, as she is positive and living life to the fullest despite her prognosis, stating “I am not going to the funeral until the day of the funeral!”

While not mentioned in his testimony, Dr. Varmus was asked by Senator Kelly Ayotte (R-NH) about the Department of Defense’s (DoD) Congressionally Directed Medical Research Program (CDMRP). The CDMRP has been a great source of funding for mesothelioma, funding $9.3 million to date. Asked if the DoD and the NCI collaborated, Dr. Varmus emphasized that all of the federal agencies that do medical research, as well as all researchers around the country share their research through scientific meetings (such as the Meso Foundation’s Symposium) and through journals. When specifically asked if he thought the program should be in the DoD or under the umbrella of the National Institutes of Health (which houses the NCI), he stated that he does not have a problem with the CDMRP being housed at the DoD and that he welcomes co-funding.

Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D- RI) asked Dr. Varmus about the Recalcitrant Cancer Act of 2012 and its progress. Dr. Varmus told the committee that he had completed the scientific framework for pancreatic cancer, and that he would be completing the scientific framework for small cell lung cancer by the statutory deadline of July 2014. This is good news for the mesothelioma community.

To view the hearing, please visit the Senate Special Committee on Aging website.

Dr. Ira Pastan of National Cancer Institute to Speak at Mesothelioma Symposium

Dr. Ira PastanThe Mesothelioma Applied Research Foundation announced that Dr. Ira Pastan, the Head of the National Cancer Institute’s Molecular Biology Section, will be the keynote speaker during its 11th annual International Symposium on Malignant Mesothelioma, taking place on March 5-7 in the Washington, DC metro area.

Alexandria, VA (PRWEB) February 28, 2014

The Mesothelioma Applied Research Foundation announced that Dr. Ira Pastan, the Head of the National Cancer Institute’s Molecular Biology Section, will be the keynote speaker during its 11th annual International Symposium on Malignant Mesothelioma, taking place on March 5-7 in the Washington, DC metro area.

Dr. Pastan is a world-renowned scientist known for his work in cancer research. Along with colleague Mark Willingham, he discovered mesothelin, a protein that is over-expressed in mesothelioma, as well as certain other cancers. This discovery has made it possible to develop an immunotoxin, SS1P, which targets the mesothelin antigen. SS1P has shown much promise in clinical trials by producing major tumor regressions lasting up to two years.

“It is an honor to have Dr. Pastan, one of those most imminent cancer researchers in this nation, joining us at our International Symposium on Malignant Mesothelioma,” said Mary Hesdorffer, NP, the executive director of the Mesothelioma Applied Research Foundation.

“Hearing about his promising work directly from Dr. Pastan will be a very inspiring experience for the mesothelioma patients in attendance, as well as others interested in curing mesothelioma,” she added.

Dr. Pastan will speak to the Symposium audience on Thursday, March 6 at 9:15 AM. The program will also be broadcast live on the web at http://www.curemeso.org/symposium.

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 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 this cancer. 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 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.