Pharmaceutical Company Completes Enrollment for Phase 1B Trial for Mesothelioma

ResearcherIf you attended our International Symposium on Malignant Mesothelioma in March of this year, you may recall the buzz of excitement that coursed throughout the scientific sessions. This buzz sparked excitement throughout the entire mesothelioma community, as we discussed advances in science, the needs of those affected by this disease, and the work being done to spur the movement of drugs through the clinical trial process.

Recently, Aduro Biotech issued a press release announcing the completion of enrollment in the Phase 1b clinical trial of its novel immunotherapy, CRS-207. I took the opportunity to call and congratulate Steve Isaacs, the chairman, president, and CEO of Aduro Biotech, on his initial trial results and his plan to move this drug along quickly and offer it globally in the Phase 3 setting.

It is exciting to see plans to jump from a Phase 1b directly to Phase 3 based on what was agreed to be compelling data by the FDA.

Patients treated on the Phase 1b study received 2 doses of CRS-207, a vaccine that utilizes the listeria virus and mesothelin as a target to gain entry into the cell. Patients then went on to receive standard of care pemetrexed/cisplatin every three weeks for 6 courses. If patients were stable or responded to the aforementioned therapy, they were then placed on a maintenance regimen of vaccinations every 8 weeks until progression.

Interim data was presented at a large scientific conference and demonstrated that in the 32 evaluable patients treated on this clinical trial, disease control was observed in 94%, which included a 60% partial response, and 34% experiencing stable disease.

The study will remain open to chemotherapy naive patients (patients who have never received chemotherapy for their mesothelioma) while the plans for the Phase 3 trial continue.

To read more about the CRS-207 study results, click here. To listen to an interview that we held with Steve Isaacs regarding the CRS-207 clinical trial, click here.

Remembering our Dad on Father’s Day

The Bendixesby Aria and Bella Bendix, Rising Leaders Council, Mesothelioma Applied Research Foundation. In memory of Ken Bendix, their father.

Father’s Day is a complicated day for the two of us. Every year as the third week in June approaches and the TV floods with Father’s Day commercials, or “Gifts for Dad” begin to appear in the aisles of department stores, we are reminded that our dad is no longer around. Many times, it can feel like a day of loss rather than celebration.

This year will mark our sixth Father’s Day since our dad’s passing. He was diagnosed with peritoneal mesothelioma in November of 2006 and, after a long and courageous fight, he passed away in September 2009. If it is said that our father lost his battle with cancer, he most certainly won the war that is life. When faced with improbable odds and at times unbearable pain, he still remained the kind, calm, selfless person we always knew him to be.

Father’s Day is a time to remember the person he once was—a silent warrior, doting dad, loving husband, and our family’s moral compass for nearly two decades. As fathers around the world unwrap fishing gear and golf clubs, t-shirts and photo frames, we unwrap the gift that is his memory, and celebrate the fact that it is still there to comfort us after all these years.

Even so, at times these memories are tinged with the pain of loss, and each year we are tempted to ignore Father’s Day altogether in order to circumvent this pain. To all those who have encountered loss in their lives, we speak from experience when we say that it is important to resist this temptation. In the midst of busy lives, it can be easy to neglect the memory of a loved one who is no longer around, to store it in that dangerous cubby of our minds that we promise ourselves we’ll access some day but rarely do. Father’s Day serves as a vital reminder of the life that we once knew, and the life that guides our thoughts and actions even when we’re not aware of it.

This Father’s Day, like many before it, our family will take a trip to Inspiration Point. A quiet little spot in Newport Beach that overlooks the ocean, it was my father’s favorite place to reflect while he was alive. Six years after his passing, we reflect in much the same way on all that he has given us, and all he continues to give us even after he is gone. These are gifts that can never be taken away, and it is important to unwrap them not only on Father’s Day, but whenever we may be feeling discouraged or sad.

It is our hope that, by recalling these memories, we can transform the loss we might feel at seeing a picture of a friend and her father on social media or a Father’s Day advertisement on TV into a moment of gratitude for the father we were fortunate enough to have. We anticipate it to be a lifelong objective, and we have no doubt that we will fall short many times. If our father has taught us anything, after all, it is that we are only human, and sometimes even the strongest of soldiers lose the battle. What matters, however, is that we continue to fight to honor our father’s memory, even when it might be painful to do so. After all that he has given us, this is our gift to him.

The Meso Foundation Applauds the Newly Formed Deadliest Cancers Caucus

Deadliest Cancers Caucus forms in Congress.On May 8, a Dear Colleague letter was sent out by the founding co-chairs of the newly established Congressional Caucus on the Deadliest Cancers to invite other Representatives to join the Caucus. The caucus, founded by Representative Leonard Lance (R-NJ), Anna Eshoo (D-CA), Dave Reichert (R-WA), and Henry Waxman (D-CA), described its purpose by stating that “because almost half of all cancer deaths in the U.S. are attributable to one of the deadliest cancers, it’s imperative that we monitor implementation and what, if any, additional steps Congress should take to address these most lethal cancers.”

The Meso Foundation applauds the formation of the Caucus. “We are so pleased to see the formation of the Deadliest Cancers Caucus in the House,” said Mary Hesdorffer, expert nurse practitioner and the executive director of the Meso Foundation. “Congress has recognized the need to do more for the most lethal cancers, and we are anxious to see progress. We will continue to dialogue with the Caucus and support them in any way we can.”

We would like to encourage you to request that your respective Congressional Representatives sign on to the letter. The request can be made by filling out a form at

Measles Virus Successfully Used to Treat Cancer

New study reports measles vaccine successfully eliminated cancer in one patient.It was recently reported that the Mayo Clinic has successfully used the measles vaccine to eliminate cancer in a patient enrolled in an experimental trial. The patient, 50-year-old Stacy Erholtz, was suffering from blood cancer, which had spread widely throughout her body, when she resorted to a clinical trial at the Mayo Clinic last June.

Erholtz’s cancer went into remission and became undetectable following a single, massive dose of the measles vaccine. Erholtz was injected with 100 billion infectious units of the measles virus. A typical dose contains only 10,000 infectious units of the virus. The virus works by attaching itself to tumors in the body and using them as hosts for replication, which eventually kills the cancer cells.

A similar experiment using the measles virus to treat mesothelioma is currently being conducted in a clinical trial by Dr. Tobias Peikert of the Mayo Clinic. The clinical trial uses the measles virus to attack mesothelioma cells in patients with pleural mesothelioma regardless of whether they have undergone prior therapy.

Dr. Peikert is using the same measles virus (MV-NIS) in his clinical trial that was used for Stacy Erholtz. Rather than an intravenous injection, however, patients in Dr. Peikert’s trial have the virus delivered into the pleural cavity. The dose used in the trial is also lower than that used for Erholtz.

“This is extremely exciting,” Dr. Peikert said in response to the successful use of the measles virus for Erholtz. “It is very encouraging to see a convincing clinical response to the virus, although one has to caution that thus far this represents a single case.” Dr. Peikert believes the dose of the virus will likely matter as future measles studies for mesothelioma are conducted.

The Meso Foundation held a previous Meet the Mesothelioma Experts podcast session with Dr. Tobias Peikert to discuss his measles virus clinical trial. You can listen to the session below.

Additionally, a video of Dr. Peikert’s panel from the International Symposium on Malignant Mesothelioma can be viewed here.

Listen to more Meet the Mesothelioma Experts podcasts at and check back for information about upcoming sessions.

GUEST BLOG: Relaxation Breathing, Stretching, and Initial Exercise Precautions

Relaxationby Carol Michaels

Exercise is good for our physical and emotional health. It is one thing that you can control and do for yourself. It is empowering. Physical activity can decrease depression and anxiety, reduce stress, increase confidence, and build positive health habits. Exercise can improve endurance, increase energy level, and decrease the fatigue that may be caused by treatments.

Relaxation Breathing and Stretching
There is an emotional toll that cancer survivors face in addition to the physical one. A cancer diagnosis can cause depression, anger, anxiety, fear and stress. Proper breathing techniques and stretching can improve the psychological recovery.

Research has shown that breathing can help reduce stress and anxiety. When feeling stressed, we usually take shallow breaths. During these exercises we will use our full lung capacity and breathe slowly and deeply. You should be aware of your breathing as it has a calming effect. Inhale for 5 seconds and fill the torso up with air, then exhale from the lower abdomen for 5 seconds, pressing the navel in towards the spine. Imagine all of your tension and stress leaving your body with each exhalation.

You should begin relaxation breathing immediately after surgery, as it allows you to focus all of your energy on healing. The stretching program will restore mobility in the chest and back that allows for freer movement of the lungs and diaphragm. We will discuss stretching in a future article.

Cancer surgery and treatments affect many areas of the body. I hear numerous complaints of stiffness, pulling, tightness, and a lack of flexibility. Often this occurs when the muscles and skin are shortened because of the surgery, which can also leave scar tissue. Surgery can irritate the nerves. As a result, you may feel burning, tingling, or numbness.

When can you start an exercise program after having cancer surgery and treatments? You should start stretching exercises as soon as you get clearance from your doctor. It is important to talk to your doctor before starting to exercise. This way you can determine what program is right for you.

Initial Exercise Precautions:

  1. Your immune system may be compromised, which places you at risk for infection. Gyms carry a high risk for infection. Exercise at home while your immune system is weak.
  2. If you have poor balance, you may want to start with exercises that are safer for those who have balance problems. Poor balance may be due to the chemotherapy, weak muscles, neurological issues, or normal aging. A common side effect of chemotherapy is peripheral neuropathy, which changes the sensation in the legs or arms. It can last a short time or be long-lasting. This can affect the way you walk, your balance, and your general movement. If you have peripheral neuropathy, you should select activities that decrease your risk of falling. For example, we recommend avoiding uneven surfaces and exercising with a stationary bike instead of a treadmill without handles. Strengthening your core will help your balance. It is also a good idea to keep all the muscles strong to compensate for the ones that are affected by the neuropathy.
  3. Be smart and safe by doing the exercises that are right for you at this particular time. You are exercising to get healthy, not to get hurt. This is an important point to keep in mind, particularly for those who were physically active before cancer. You will not be able to immediately resume the same level of pre-cancer activity.
  4. Exercise in a temperature controlled environment. Cold temperature can crack your skin, while extreme heat can cause swelling or light-headedness.
  5. At the start of your exercise program, you should warm up with deep breathing techniques and shoulder rolls. We recommend that you warm up before you stretch by walking, marching in place or using a stationary bike. You can also exercise after a warm shower, which may relax the muscles.
  6. Never hold your breath during an activity. People often hold their breath during exercise, so remember to breathe deeply.
  7. Drink plenty of water, especially when sweating.
  8. If your blood count or the mineral levels (potassium and sodium) are low, check with your health professional before resuming exercise.
  9. Some medications affect the heart rate, so your pulse rate is not a good indicator of the level of your exercise exertion.
  10. Learn to move slowly and smoothly without jerky movements. Do not continue an activity if it causes pain or unusual fatigue. You should feel a gentle stretch, not pain.
  11. Know your limits. You should be able to differentiate between discomfort and unusual pain. Stop if you feel pain.  Listen to your body and use common sense. If something does not feel right, do not do it. You should consult with your doctor if you are experiencing pain, swelling, or unusual fatigue.
  12. Wear comfortable and loose clothing and appropriate footwear. For those with peripheral neuropathy affecting the feet, supportive footwear is particularly important.

Exercise Progression
Many variables determine the exercises that are effective and safe for your particular situation. Every day brings new challenges and new accomplishments for the cancer patient. It is important to be able to modify your exercises to fit your needs at a given time.

Pain and fatigue levels can change from day to day, and even from hour to hour. You may wake up feeling fine, but may have increased fatigue as the day progresses. Track your energy levels throughout the day to determine the best time to schedule your exercise sessions. For example, if you have more energy in the afternoons, you should exercise in the afternoons.

Exercise when your energy levels are high. Common sense and listening to your body are of utmost importance. You should not feel like you have to follow a set protocol or a strict schedule. Your routine must be customized due to the numerous physical and psychological side effects you may be experiencing.

Both healing times and pain tolerance can differ greatly from one person to the next. Speed of recovery depends on your pre-surgery fitness level and type of surgery and treatments. The progression and timing of a cancer exercise program can only be determined after a thorough discussion between the patient and her or his healthcare professional.

Carol Michaels FitnessCarol Michaels is a cancer exercise specialist and creator of the Recovery Fitness cancer exercise program. Recovery Fitness is taking place at Morristown Medical Center and several other facilities in New Jersey. Michaels also wrote “Exercise for Cancer Survivors,” a resource for cancer patients going through surgery and treatment.