Asbestos Awareness Week: Counteracting Decades of Damage with Research?

AsbestosAwarenessWeek2014During the first week of April, the Mesothelioma Applied Research Foundation (Meso Foundation) will observe Asbestos Awareness Week while raising awareness of the deep damage inflicted by asbestos’ use and the overdue need for life-saving treatments and a cure for those who have already developed, or who will develop, mesothelioma. Mesothelioma is a cancer known to be caused by exposure to asbestos. The latency period between asbestos exposure and development of mesothelioma ranges between 20 – 50 years, meaning that patients of today were exposed decades ago, but also that patients of tomorrow have likely already been exposed.

Medical experts consider mesothelioma as one of the most aggressive and deadly of all cancers. With a 5-year survival rate in the single digits, mesothelioma currently has no cure. 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.

Asbestos, a catch-all term to describe a group of naturally-occurring mineral fibers, was used in construction for decades. Workers in a number of industries and occupations were regularly exposed to high amounts of asbestos fibers. Although, the United States has placed heavy regulations on its use, asbestos has still not been completely banned and continues to be used.

Today, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates that asbestos is still present in tens of millions of homes, government buildings, schools, etc. Asbestos has also been found naturally-occurring in the soil in several locations in the United States, sometimes in very close proximity to inhabited areas. When disturbed, asbestos particles become airborne and are easily inhaled. Scientists have identified that no amount of exposure is safe.

“Unfortunately, asbestos’ prevalence has put all of us at risk,” said Mary Hesdorffer, nurse practitioner and executive director of the Meso Foundation.

“Given the extremely long latency period for developing mesothelioma, for thousands of Americans, the damage has already been done — the asbestos has been inhaled. Now it is our responsibility to invest in prevention research and to make sure that if they develop mesothelioma, life-saving treatments and a cure are waiting for them,” added Ms. Hesdorffer.

The Meso Foundation is the only non-government funder of peer-reviewed scientific research focused on prevention, early detection, development of effective treatments, 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.

New Therapeutic Approaches for Malignant Mesothelioma Using Immunotherapy to Target WT1

Slide for MARF-3-19-2014by Tao Dao, Lee M. Krug and David A. Scheinberg, Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, New York, NY

Wilms’ tumor  1 (WT1) is a protein that is present at high levels in many types of cancers (especially mesothelioma), but it is generally not found in normal cells. Therefore, we think that it is a potential target for novel therapies, and particularly immunotherapies. WT1 is typically found inside the cell, in the nucleus. Only after it is processed and moved to the surface of the cancer is it possible for the immune system to see it. We think that if we could teach the immune system to attack WT1, we could find an effective way to specifically kill mesothelioma cancer cells.

At Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, we are studying two ways to boost the immune response against WT1. The first is with a vaccine. Normally, the WT1 protein does not cause an immune response to occur. However, we found that small pieces of WT1 proteins that are just slightly different from normal WT1 protein can stimulate the immune system better. If we can teach the patient’s immune system to target WT1 using a vaccine made up of these protein pieces, then perhaps it will also learn to attack the cancer cells. In fact, when we gave the WT1 vaccine to patients along with some immune booster medicines, they developed an excellent immune response specifically to WT1. We are now studying this vaccine in a larger clinical trial to see if it is effective against the cancer. Patients who have undergone surgery for mesothelioma either get the immune boosters alone or together with the WT1 vaccine to see if it can prolong the time before the mesothelioma grows back.

We are now also studying another way to attack WT1 using antibodies. Antibodies are proteins in the body that stick to foreign substances (such as bacteria or viruses) and tag them for destruction by the immune system. In this case, however, we have engineered antibodies in a laboratory so they will recognize WT1. Thus, instead of the vaccine strategy which relies on teaching the patient’s immune system to attack WT1, these antibodies can be injected and bind directly to it. We have demonstrated that this antibody is a potent therapeutic agent against human mesothelioma in animal models. Our study was published in the Science Translational Medicine in March, 2013. (http://stm.sciencemag.org/content/5/176/176ra33.long). We are working to bring this promising new drug to clinical application in the very near future.

Acknowledgement

We greatly appreciate the grant support from the Mesothelioma Applied Research Foundation for our exciting research targeting WT1 by both vaccines and antibody therapies (TD and LMK are recipients of Meso Foundation grants).

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.

Rep. Betty McCollum and Rep. Chellie Pingree to Receive Bruce Vento Hope-Builder Award

Congressional Briefing on Malignant MesotheliomaThe Mesothelioma Applied Research Foundation (Meso Foundation) announced that Congresswomen Betty McCollum and Chellie Pingree are the recipients of the Bruce Vento Hope-Builder Award, for sending a letter to Dr. Harold Varmus, Director of the National Cancer Institute, to urge the National Cancer Institute to further mesothelioma research.

Alexandria, VA (PRWEB) February 28, 2014

The Mesothelioma Applied Research Foundation (Meso Foundation) announced that Congresswomen Betty McCollum and Chellie Pingree are the recipients of the Bruce Vento Hope-Builder Award, for sending a letter to Dr. Harold Varmus, Director of the National Cancer Institute, to urge the National Cancer Institute to further mesothelioma research. They will be presented with the award during the International Symposium on Malignant Mesothelioma, on March 6.

Last month, U.S. Congresswomen Betty McCollum (D-MN) and Chellie Pingree (D-ME) sent a “Dear Colleague” letter to all members of the U.S. House of Representatives asking them to join them in urging the National Cancer Institute to create a scientific framework for mesothelioma. The Mesothelioma Applied Research Foundation (Meso Foundation) has long advocated for the National Cancer Institute to increase their focus on mesothelioma, and congratulates Representative McCollum and Representative Pingree for their efforts on behalf of the mesothelioma community, including patients and families, physicians, advocates, and researchers dedicated to eradicating the life-ending and vicious effects of mesothelioma.

The idea for this letter began when Representative Pingree’s constituent, mesothelioma survivor Lisa Gonneville spoke at the Capitol Hill briefing onMesothelioma Awareness Day (September 26).

Mrs. Gonneville, a mother of four and Dayton, ME resident, pleaded that the staffers do something to address this deadly cancer. “I’ve endured all of the treatment options available for mesothelioma, which are very limited,” said Mrs. Gonneville, “my only hope at this point is clinical trials.” Congresswoman Pingree was so moved by Ms. Gonneville’s story that she, too, wanted to help the mesothelioma community in her honor.

“Congresswomen McCollum and Pingree are leading a very important effort for everyone affected by mesothelioma by encouraging the National Cancer Institute to create a scientific framework to progress mesothelioma research,” said Meso Foundation’s executive director and nurse practitioner, Mary Hesdorffer.

“This is an incredible way to help thousands of patients affected by mesothelioma, and also honor our distinguished former board member and Congresswoman McCollum’s predecessor, Bruce Vento.”

Bruce Vento was a prominent member of Congress who, after nearly 24 years of service, succumbed to mesothelioma only eight months after diagnosis.

The Recalcitrant Cancer Research Act of 2012 was signed into law by President Obama on January 2, 2013 as part of the National Defense Authorization Act (Public Law No. 112-239), giving the Director of the National Cancer Institute (NCI) the ability to identify recalcitrant cancers for which to establish scientific frameworks that will guide research efforts.

For each recalcitrant cancer, NCI is to convene a working group of both Federal and non-Federal individuals to provide expertise and assistance in developing the scientific framework. The frameworks are to be completed within 18 months of enactment, then submitted to Congress and made publicly available on the HHS website within 30 days. The bill requires the progress of each scientific framework be reported in the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Biennial Report, with an assessment of progress made in improving outcomes for recalcitrant cancers. The bill further states that the NCI Director “shall consider” each relevant scientific framework when making recommendations for exception funding for grant applications.

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.

Live Broadcast of Mesothelioma Conference for Patients and Family Members

International Symposium on Malignant MesotheliomaThe Mesothelioma Applied Research Foundation will provide an online live broadcast of its annual International Symposium on Malignant Mesothelioma on March 6-7

Alexandria, VA (PRWEB) February 27, 2014

On March 6-7, the Mesothelioma Applied Research Foundation (Meso Foundation) will make available a free-of-charge live broadcast of its 11th International Symposium on Malignant Mesothelioma. The Symposium is a unique event that covers important treatment information and research advances presented by mesothelioma experts. The Meso Foundation understands that many mesothelioma patients are unable to travel for health reasons, so to ensure the community can still access this life-saving information, live video coverage of most session will be available through the Meso Foundation’s website.

The free live stream is a real-time broadcast of the Thursday and Friday sessions of the Symposium. Only a computer (or smart phone/device) and an internet connection are needed to access the live stream, which will be available athttp://www.curemeso.org/symposium. The same webpage also contains the full agenda of the event.

Some of the topics covered during the Symposium and its live stream include pleural and peritoneal mesothelioma, immunotherapy, post-surgical recovery, early detection, novel therapeutics, radiation oncology, chemotherapy: poison or antidote?, chemo brain, survivorship, nutrition, exercise, caregiver conversations, healing from loss of a loved one, getting involved, and an update on the work of the Meso Foundation.

The Symposium is geared to attendees from all walks of life, including patients and their families, advocates, medical professionals, and those who have lost a loved one to mesothelioma. The Symposium will be held from March 5-7 at the Hilton Alexandria Mark Center in Alexandria Virginia. Symposium events will include an advocacy day on Capitol Hill, science and community sessions, a Celebration of Life ceremony, an Awards Dinner, a Community Dinner featuring the Meso Fighters Band, and more. A full list of events, topics, and speakers can be found 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.