Three Notre Dame Students to Attend International Mesothelioma Conference

Three Notre Dame student investigators to attend the 2014 Mesothelioma International SymposiumThe Mesothelioma Applied Research Foundation applauds the University of Notre Dame for sending three student investigators to the Mesothelioma Applied Research Foundation’s International Symposium on Malignant Mesothelioma from March 5-7.

Three student investigators from the University of Notre Dame will attend the Mesothelioma Applied Research Foundation’s International Symposium on Malignant Mesothelioma this year as part of a plan to finalize the “James A. ‘Jim’ Grogan Endowed Fund for Excellence” at the university. Jim Grogan is General President of the International Association of Heat and Frost Insulators Union (formerly the Asbestos Workers) and is a friend of all who are trying to treat and cure mesothelioma and other asbestos-related diseases.

The three students this year were selected from applications submitted to Dr. Deb Rotman at Notre Dame’s Center for Undergraduate Scholarship Engagement (CUSE) program. The students will be given a stipend that will cover all their housing and travel expenses and payment for the time spent in their summer scholarship. The CUSE Program at Notre Dame “creates opportunities for undergraduate research by connecting students to resources,” said Dr. Deb Rotman, the Director of the CUSE Program at Notre Dame, who can be contacted at rotman.1(at)nd(dot)edu.

“This is a unique opportunity to capture young students, with the hope that they will develop a lasting passion for mesothelioma clinical research, and a commitment to the patients with whom they will interact at the Symposium,” said the executive director of the Mesothelioma Applied Research Foundation, Mary Hesdorffer, NP.

The Jim Grogan Endowment will be used to fund a student each year for a Summer Internship in asbestos related medical research: specifically, the early detection, effective treatment or cure of asbestos induced disease, including mesothelioma and lung cancer. These ‘Jim Grogan Fellows’ will hopefully help many researchers in years to come.

The Meso Foundation’s International Symposium on Malignant Mesothelioma 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.

Meet the Experts: Dr. Valerie Rusch, Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center

Meet the Experts: Dr. Valerie Rusch

The Meso Foundation would like to invite you to join us for the next installment of our Meet the Experts series: “Focused Discussion on a New Clinical Trial: GL-ONC1” on Monday, February 17 at 8 PM Eastern Time, featuring Dr. Valerie Rusch, Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center.

The teleconference will follow our usual format with Mary Hesdorffer, Nurse Practitioner, as the moderator. We encourage all listeners to submit questions through our Facebook page and email throughout the call.

The teleconference is free, but does require that you RSVP in order to receive the call-in information. You can RSVP here.

Dr. Valerie Rusch of the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center is a thoracic surgeon with over 25 years of experience. Her focus is treatment of patients with cancers of the lung, airways (trachea, bronchi), esophagus, mediastinum, chest wall, and pleura (malignant pleural mesothelioma). Read more about Dr. Rusch here.

You can listen to previous Meet the Experts sessions, including our most recent session, “New Frontiers in Surgery” with Dr. Joseph Friedberg, on our Meet the Experts page.

Meso Foundation Awards Half Million Dollars to Mesothelioma Research

DNA-SmallToday, all of us at the Meso Foundation are extremely excited to share with you the 2013 grant awardees. The peer-review process is now complete, and the top five projects will receive a total funding of $500,000. With the completion of the 2013 grant process, the Meso Foundation’s total funding awarded to mesothelioma research is now $8.7 million!

The grant application process began in April of 2013 and yielded 49 research proposals in the area of mesothelioma research. The Foundation’s Science Advisory Board, which is comprised of 18 world-renowned mesothelioma experts, evaluated and ranked all proposals through a peer-review process modeled after the National Cancer Institute. The top five proposals to come out of this intense peer-review process will receive funding of $100,000 each for a total of half a million dollars.

The grant recipients include Marc De Perrot, MD, of the University Health Network for his project “Optimizing the radiation approach to mesothelioma with immunotherapy”; Christian Ottensmeier of the University of Southampton for his project “Evaluating the effect of immunity on outcomes of patients with mesothelioma”; Tao Dao, MD, PhD, of the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center for his project “Specific immunotherapy for mesothelioma by use of bi-specific TCR-like antibody“; Usha Pendurthi, PhD, of the University of Texas Health Science Center at Tyler for her project “Endothelial Cell Protein C Receptor Attenuates Mesothelioma Progression”; and Elisa Giovannetti, MD, PhD, of the VU University Medical Center for her project “Novel lactate dehydrogenase inhibitors for the treatment of mesothelioma.”

The focus of the five projects is varied, as they all attempt to combat mesothelioma through different mechanisms. One of the projects, in particular, seeks to demonstrate that combining immunotherapy with ‘high intensity/fewer doses of radiation’ (which alone appear to have immunotherapeutic effects), increases tumor reduction compared to each therapy alone. Another project funded seeks to target a protein receptor in the mesothelioma cells that regulates the life cycle of the cell itself, the purpose of which is to stop tumor growth.

As Mary Hesdorffer, NP, states, “All five of these projects are remarkable and hold much promise in their ability to add to our currently limited arsenal for treating mesothelioma.” She speaks for everyone at the Meso Foundation as she continues, “I am very proud of the life-saving work our mesothelioma researchers are doing.”

For complete descriptions of the funded projects, visit curemeso.org/grants2013.

Meet the Experts Recap: Dr. Friedberg on New Frontiers in Surgery

Dr. Joseph FriedbergOver 40 individuals from the meso community joined us Thursday night for our latest Meet the Experts session “New Frontiers in Surgery” with Dr. Joseph Friedberg, a surgeon at the University of Pennsylvania. With an interest in diseases of the pleura, Dr. Friedberg’s surgical protocol involves laser treatments and photodynamic therapy, on which he has published a promising study. During Thursday’s teleconference, Dr. Friedberg explained photodynamic therapy and his surgical treatment process, how it works, and the benefits it may hold for mesothelioma patients.

At the start of the teleconference, Dr. Friedberg explained that photodynamic therapy is a light-based cancer treatment that is minimally toxic, unlike chemotherapy, and not as penetrative as radiation. To administer the therapy, the patient is given a compound similar to chlorophyll, which is used by plants to capture light energy from the sun. The compound enters the patient’s cells, making them very light sensitive and giving them the ability to capture visible light energy. The light energy only penetrates a small distance into the body, which is enough to cause reactions that can kill cancer cells. In a disease such as pleural mesothelioma where, following lung-sparing surgery, microscopic cancer cells generally remain, photodynamic therapy is used to complement or augment surgery in an effort to remove all detectable cancer.

Dr. Friedberg went on to discuss the surgical treatment process for mesothelioma patients at the University of Pennsylvania, but first noted, “All surgery for mesothelioma really remains investigational at this point.” When a new mesothelioma patient goes to UPenn for treatment, a team evaluates their case and determines which type of treatments they qualify for. When a patient is a candidate for surgery, and they decide they want to go this route, Dr. Friedberg notes that they start with surgery followed by photodynamic therapy and then chemotherapy. Most of their patients do not receive radiation treatment.

For pleural mesothelioma patients, Dr. Friedberg performs lung-sparing surgery (as opposed to lung-sacrificing surgery, which is best known as an ‘extrapleural pneumonectomy’ or EPP). In his method, Dr. Friedberg mobilizes the cancer off of the chest wall, diaphragm, and mediastinum, so that the cancer is tethered solely to the lung. The pleural lining is then completely removed from the lung along with the cancer that is connected to it. The median length of stay post-surgery is 13 days with the first 1-3 days spent in the ICU. The photodynamic therapy leaves the patient with light sensitivity that lasts about two weeks and could result in very quick sunburn.

Dr. Friedberg has performed this surgery and treatment process on a few hundred patients, which includes patients with cancers other than mesothelioma. Nonetheless, he notes, “The operation is still in evolution … I’m always trying to think of ways you can make it better and more translatable.”

It is still debatable whether lung-sparing surgery or lung-sacrificing surgery is better for patients. Dr. Friedberg believes that saving the lung allows patients a better quality of life post-surgery. With two lungs, “The patients are doing more; they’re in better shape. They are just more robust.” Additionally, if the mesothelioma reoccurs, “They are typically able to tolerate better and more aggressive treatment.”

As moderator, Mary Hesdorffer, NP, relays the question of a listener who asks, “What is the average lifespan of a surgical patient who goes through a successful surgery?” Dr. Friedberg answers honestly as he states, “This is both the best and the most important, and the least answerable question a patient can ask.” He notes the unpredictable qualities of mesothelioma, as the cancer is not only different from patient to patient, but it also changes character within one patient from one region of the chest cavity to the next.

Dr. Friedberg goes on to explain the questions that arise when a mesothelioma patient is deciding whether or not they should go through with surgery. The patient needs to weigh the benefits and the risks, and also think about lung-sparing or lung-sacrificing surgery. Dr. Friedberg suggests patients ask their surgeons, “What would make you take the lung out and what is the impact of that?” The patient should also make sure the surgeon they speak with will actually be performing their surgery. They should find out who else is on the team, what additional treatments may be necessary, whether or not radiation is needed and why, and so on.

Dr. Friedberg provided a huge amount of information regarding mesothelioma surgery and photodynamic therapy. He discussed who qualifies for his treatment and who will benefit from it, how mesothelioma surgery differs from surgeon to surgeon, what role photodynamic therapy appears to be playing in the treatment process, and much more. We are extremely grateful to Dr. Friedberg for taking part in this Meet the Experts session and providing the community with excellent insight into mesothelioma surgical treatment.

You can listen to the full teleconference on the Meet the Experts page.

UPCOMING MEET THE EXPERTS
The next Meet the Experts session will be held on February 17th at 8PM Eastern with Dr. Valerie Rusch of Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center. More details will be announced as they become available on the Meet the Experts page.

Congressional Letter Requests NCI to Place More Emphasis on Mesothelioma Research

The Meso Foundation commends nineteen Members of the House of Representatives, led by Betty McCollum (D-MN) and Chellie Pingree (D-ME), for sending a letter to the Director of the National Cancer Institute urging him to further progress in mesothelioma research.

Alexandria, VA (PRWEB) January 30, 2014 American flagsOn January 10, 2014, nineteen Members of the United States House of Representatives sent a letter to the Director of the National Cancer Institute, Dr. Harold Varmus, urging him to focus on mesothelioma research. The letter urges Dr. Varmus, to create a scientific framework for mesothelioma stating that “mesothelioma, a frequently terminal cancer for which there has been very little diagnostic or treatment progress, deserves immediate attention.”

The bipartisan letter was sent by Congresswomen Betty McCollum (D-MN) and Chellie Pingree (D-ME), and was signed by seventeen additional Representatives (full list is included at the bottom of this bulletin). 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 the ability to identify deadly cancers for which to establish scientific frameworks that will guide research efforts.

Mesothelioma is one of the most deadly cancers, with only a five to ten percent five-year survival rate. With only one FDA-approved treatment for mesothelioma that extends life by only three months, many patients have to resort to off-label use of chemotherapies, drastic surgery, or participation in clinical trials. There is no test currently available for early detection of mesothelioma.

“Our community has advocated for an increased focus on mesothelioma research for many years,” said Meso Foundation’s executive director Mary Hesdorffer. “We are overjoyed to see so many of our elected officials recognizing the immediate need for mesothelioma research.”

The Mesothelioma Applied Research Foundation has independently funded over $8.7 million in peer-reviewed mesothelioma research to date.

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. Congressional Representatives Who Have Signed the Letter to the NCI: Betty McCollum D-MN, Chellie Pingree D-ME, Leonard Lance R-NJ, Jim Moran D-VA, Sam Farr D-CA, Don Young R-AK , Gwen Moore D-WI, Glenn Thompson R-PA, Mike Honda D-CA, Julia Brownley D-CA, Henry Johnson D-GA, Carol Shea-Porter D-NH, Nita Lowey D-NY, Frank LoBiondo D-NJ, Carolyn Maloney D-NY, Jason Chaffetz R- UT, Michael Michaud D-ME, Michael Turner R-OH, Karen Bass, D-CA.