Meet the Mesothelioma Experts: Stephen Isaacs Discusses New Clinical Trial Using Listeria Bacteria

Stephen IsaacsOn September 10, the Meso Foundation will interview Stephen Isaacs, the chairperson, president, and CEO of Adura BioTech, during a new installment of the Foundation’s Meet the Mesothelioma Experts live broadcast. The interview will be led by the Meso Foundation’s executive director and mesothelioma expert nurse practitioner, Mary Hesdorffer, APRN.

The focus of the interview will be Audo BioTech’s experimental therapy for malignant pleural mesothelioma, known as CRS-207. CRS-207 is a weakened form of Listeria bacteria modified to reduce its ability to cause infections, but still able to stimulate the immune system.

The interview will be available live on September 10, at 1PM EST, by calling into a conference-call number. The interview is free of charge, but listeners must RSVP ahead of time by visiting curemeso.org/experts in order to receive a call-in number.

In his position at Aduro BioTech, Mr. Isaacs initiated the company’s current immunotherapy program based on attenuated strains of Listeria monocytogenes. He was responsible for recruiting key members of the current vaccine team with deep expertise in the biology of Listeria. Mr. Isaacs has published over 20 peer-reviewed scientific articles and is an inventor on over 40 issued patents.

To RSVP for the upcoming session with Stephen Isaacs or to listen to past Meet the Mesothelioma Experts sessions, visit curemeso.org/exerpts.

More Promising Mesothelioma Clinical Trials than Ever Before

Research continues to search for a cure as more mesothelioma clinical trials than ever before are underway.During the July 2014 board meeting of the Mesothelioma Applied Research Foundation, mesothelioma expert and executive director of the Meso Foundation, Mary Hesdorffer, APRN, stated that mesothelioma patients today have more promising clinical trials to choose from than ever before.

In her talk, she mentioned several trials that have been reporting increased survival and response rates. Some include novel radiation treatments, while the focus of others is within the field of immunotherapy. One trial, in particular, is looking very promising with a 69% durable response in a small group of patients. Ms. Hesdorffer stated that a new, larger trial currently underway is looking to confirm these results.

“A clinical trial is a unique opportunity for a patient to try something new and innovative that could have a very positive impact on the patient’s disease,” said Ms. Hesdorffer. “Having options is an important step forward in a disease that merely a decade ago was seen as hopeless,” she added.

Ms. Hesdorffer provides free consultations about clinical trials, as well as other issues pertaining to mesothelioma, as part of the Mesothelioma Applied Research Foundation’s patient services.

“While healthcare providers aren’t able to review all clinical trial options with their patients due to time constrains, at the Meso Foundation it is our job to spend the necessary time to go through all viable options while taking into consideration insurance coverage, stage of disease, histology and readiness to participate in a clinical trial,” added Ms. Hesdorffer.

Mary Hesdorffer, MS, APRN-BC, is a nurse practitioner with over 16 years of experience in mesothelioma treatment. She is an expert in mesothelioma clinical trials and her work has been published in a variety of scientific journals.

The Mesothelioma Applied Research Foundation has recently released a downloadable brochure about mesothelioma clinical trials, which can also be requested by mail, and lists all mesothelioma clinical trials on its website.

Focus on Mesothelioma in Pharmaceutical Company Investor Meeting

Mary at Verastem, Inc.On July 10, during the research and development portion of the Verastem, Inc.’s investor meeting, Mary Hesdorffer, APRN, the executive director of the Mesothelioma Applied Research Foundation, was a featured speaker. In her talk, Ms. Hesdorffer focused on the need for clinical trials to increase the number of viable therapeutic options for mesothelioma.

According to their website, Verastem, Inc. is a “clinical-stage biopharmaceutical company focused on discovering and developing drugs to treat cancer by the targeted killing of cancer stem cells. Cancer stem cells are an underlying cause of tumor recurrence and metastasis.”

“When we look at the mesothelioma patient, we have one regimen, pemetrexed and cisplatin, approved in 2003,” said Ms. Hesdorffer. “40% of the patients were found to respond to the treatment, but unfortunately, it’s not a durable response,” she added.

Ms. Hesdorffer continued her speech by focusing on the need to do more for mesothelioma patients to increase time to relapse or even to delay relapse indefinitely. She argues that keeping patients healthier for longer periods of time, improving their quality of life, and keeping them in good shape, positions them as good candidates for major breakthroughs that might develop in the future.

Mary Hesdorffer, MS, APRN-BC, is an expert nurse practitioner with over 16 years of experience in mesothelioma treatment. She is an expert in clinical trials for mesothelioma and her work has been published in a variety of scientific journals. She has spoken about mesothelioma, clinical trials, and the dire need for life-saving mesothelioma treatments to the US Congress and the UK Parliament, as well as many seminars and conferences, including the World Conference on Lung Cancer, where in 2015 she will be the program chair of the Nursing and Allied Health section.

For more information on mesothelioma clinical trials, and to download the Meso Foundation’s free clinical trials booklet, visit curemeso.org.

Summary of Mesothelioma Studies Presented at ASCO

Lee M. Krug, MD shares his annual summary of the mesothelioma research presented at the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) meeting.by Lee M. Krug, MD, Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center

The American Society of Clinical Oncology meeting was held from May 30 – June 3, 2014 in Chicago. This is the largest oncology meeting each year with around 30,000 attendees from all over the globe who congregate to discuss the latest research in all cancer types. I will provide you with my annual summary of the most prominent studies in mesothelioma.

Randomized trial of arginine deprivation with ADI-PEG20: This abstract was presented by Dr. Szlosarek from the United Kingdom. Arginine is an amino acid that normal cells make using an enzyme called ASS (time to make the joke here!). However, many cancer cells lack the ASS enzyme so they cannot make arginine and they need to get it from outside the cell. ADI-PEG20 starves the cancer cells of arginine. In this trial, patients with mesothelioma were randomized to receive treatment with ADI-PEG20 or just supportive care. In order to qualify, the tumor samples were tested to make sure they had low levels of ASS. Side effects were very mild with this treatment. About half of the patients had stabilization of their disease. The time for cancer growth to occur was longer in the ADI-PEG20 arm, but only by a small margin (1.9 versus 3.2 months). A future study will combine ADI-PEG20 with chemotherapy, and that trial should open later this year.

Phase 2 study with tremelimumab: Probably the hottest drugs in oncology right now are the antibodies that boost the immune system. These types of treatment have shown great benefit in melanoma, lung cancer, and many others. Tremelimumab is one of these drugs, and this trial, conducted in Italy by Dr. Calabro and colleagues, showed that mesothelioma also responds to these therapies. Of the 29 patients, 14% of patients had shrinkage of their mesothelioma and 38% had stabilization. These data support the international, randomized trial with tremelimumab that is currently ongoing that will include 542 patients. If this large trial shows that tremelimumab improves survival, this drug will get FDA approval for mesothelioma.

Anti-mesothelin vaccine CRS-207 plus chemotherapy: Dr. Hassan from the National Cancer Institute reported these results. Mesothelin is a protein on the surface of mesothelioma tumors, and seems to be an excellent target for treatment. CRS-207 is a vaccine that increases the immune response against mesothelin. In this study, CRS-207 was given with pemetrexed and cisplatin. Nearly 70% of patients had shrinkage of their cancer, much more than usual with chemotherapy alone, and the responses seemed to last longer. These results should encourage a larger future randomized study.

Next-generation sequencing in mesothelioma: The report from Dr. Scagliotti at the University of Turin, Italy, described his findings from an analysis of gene mutations in a group of mesothelioma tumor samples. This type of testing has become critical for identifying potential targets in all cancers, and customizing treatment for each patient.


Lee M. Krug, MD, is an Associate Attending Physician in the Division of Thoracic Oncology, Department of Medicine at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York, New York, where he completed a fellowship and chief fellowship in medical oncology. Dr. Krug is the Director of the Mesothelioma Program at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center. He is also the chair of the board of directors of the Meso Foundation.

Update on Mesothelioma: A CancerCare Teleconference

CancerCare Update on MesotheliomaOn Monday, June 30 from 4:30-5:30PM Eastern Time, CancerCare is hosting a free mesothelioma teleconference workshop. The teleconference, titled Update on Mesothelioma, will feature a panel of experts to discuss numerous topics related to the disease. Registrants will be able to listen in on the phone or through a live stream online.

The Update on Mesothelioma teleconference will cover topics including mesothelioma treatment choices; the role of clinical trials; managing side effects, discomfort and pain; communicating with your health care team; quality of life and life style concerns; and physical activity and nutrition issues and tips. Questions for the panel of experts will also be accepted.

The panel of experts consists of four individuals: Richard J. Gralla, MD, FACP, Professor of Medicine, Albert Einstein College of Medicine; Lee M. Krug, MD, Director of the Mesothelioma Program, Associate Attending Physician, Division of Thoracic Oncology, Department of Medicine, Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center; Mary Hesdorffer, MS, APRN-BC, Nurse Practitioner, Executive Director, Mesothelioma Applied Research Foundation; and Winfield Boerckel, MSW, MBA, Director of Social Service – Long Island, Lung Cancer Program Coordinator, CancerCare.

Mary Hesdorffer, MS, APRN-BC, is an expert nurse practitioner with over 16 years of experience in mesothelioma treatment and dozens of published articles in a variety of scientific journals. She is the executive director of the Meso Foundation and the first line of help for patients and caregivers faced with a mesothelioma diagnosis.

Lee M. Krug, MD, is an Associate Attending Physician in the Division of Thoracic Oncology, Department of Medicine at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York, New York, where he completed a fellowship and chief fellowship in medical oncology. Dr. Krug is the Director of the Mesothelioma Program at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center. He is also the chair of the board of directors of the Meso Foundation.

To register for the free Update on Mesothelioma teleconference workshop, visit CancerCare.org.