Listen to the “Meet the Mesothelioma Experts” Session with Dr. Joanna C. Horobin

COMMAND trialThe most recent installment of the Meso Foundation’s “Meet the Mesothelioma Experts” series is now available for listening on our website. The session was held on April 8 with Dr. Joanna C. Horobin, the Chief Medical Officer at Verastem, Inc. Dr. Horobin discussed the company’s latest investigational agent, defactinib, which is being developed for use in patients with pleural mesothelioma.

During the call, Dr. Horobin was interviewed by Mary Hesdorffer, the Meso Foundation’s executive director and experienced nurse practitioner. The session focused on learning more about investigational agent defactinib, which is used to delay the time to progression after having a response or stabilization with first-line therapy.

Dr. Joanna C. Horobin, M.B., Ch.B, has been the Chief Medical Officer at Verastem, Inc. since October 2012.

You can listen to the session with Dr. Horobin, as well as past “Meet the Mesothelioma Experts” session here.

GUEST BLOG: First Steps to Starting an Exercise Program

Joggingby Carol Michaels

Exercise may be the furthest thing from your mind after a cancer diagnosis. Even if you have never been active, exercise can become one of your favorite activities. Ask your doctor before you start to exercise because each person is unique and heals differently. With more medical professionals recommending exercise to their patients, it is imperative for cancer survivors to learn how to exercise safely. A good exercise program will help to reduce the side effects of surgery and treatments. These side effects can include fatigue, neuropathy, decreased range of motion, weakness, lymphedema, and a significant emotional toll. Once you start to exercise and have less pain, stiffness and more energy, you will be motivated to continue.

Exercise may reduce the chance of recurrence, and it is therefore more important than ever to add exercise to your recovery plan. For those who have been active prior to their diagnosis, this is great news. A good exercise program will help you to get back to the activities that you enjoy. For the cancer survivors who have been inactive, it is never too late to start an exercise program. Work with an experienced cancer exercise specialist in your area or purchase cancer exercise books and DVD’s. This will give you the tools that you need to get started in an exercise program that is part of a healthy lifestyle.

Before You Begin
You will need to speak to your health professional before beginning an exercise program. Your particular surgery, treatments, fitness level and healing speed will guide the progression of the exercises. Your health and recovery process is always changing and it will be important to regularly monitor your blood count, muscle and joint pain, nausea, and fatigue. You may also have lingering impairments or health concerns that need to be evaluated by a physical therapist or lymphedema therapist.

You should meet with your oncologist to review the exact nature of your treatments so that you will understand the potential side effects of your treatments. This way you will be able to understand your exercise plan in relation to your unique situation. Some medications affect balance, and cardiac function, or increase the risk of dehydration. It is crucial that you understand the health issues you may encounter as a consequence of your surgery or treatment. This will include learning which muscles are affected, which lymph nodes are removed, and the cardiac and pulmonary effects of radiation and chemotherapy.

Exercise Goals
Goals should be specific and realistic. You may want to lose weight and increase your muscle mass. If flexibility is an issue, your goal may be to improve your range of motion. Other goals might be to become stronger, have a good quality of life, better mood, or to decrease the chance of recurrence.

It is helpful to have both short term and long term exercise goals. Goals should be able to be adapted to changes in work, health, and family situations. If you are new to exercise, select an activity and set an achievable goal.  Slowly add exercise to your daily activities and find something that works with your lifestyle.

Remember: Think positive and have fun!

Exercising During Chemotherapy and Radiation
It seems counterintuitive, but exercise during treatment is shown to be helpful. Physical activity during treatment can reduce common side effects such as fatigue, pain, nausea, depression or anxiety. If you are suffering from pain and nausea you should have those issues under control before beginning. Your doctor will be able to tell you how often you should exercise and how intense your program should be.

Each treatment is unique and has potentially debilitating side effects of which you should be aware.

Systemic treatments such as chemotherapy and hormonal therapy as well as targeted, biological and immunotherapies may impact your balance, cardiac function, and gastro-intestinal tract. Furthermore, they may lead to neuropathy or numbness in your extremities. Radiation can cause fatigue and increases the risk of lymphedema. It can also cause swelling and burning of the skin.

First Steps
Try to start moving as soon as possible after surgery, even if it is only walking indoors. This will help you to regain strength. If you had been inactive prior to surgery, start with short walks and increase the distance walked each time. You can also increase the frequency of the walks as you slowly increase the distance. Try to find a walking buddy and walk often. Build up strength slowly and make sure never to over do it. Just 15 minutes a day can improve your energy level and mood.

Incorporate aerobic activity into your fitness plan. Find the aerobic activity – one that increases your heart and breathing rate – that you enjoy and try to do it daily. Aerobic activity is an important component of a fitness plan and includes activities like walking, hiking, and dancing.


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.

Hypnosis Therapy may Decrease Fatigue in Mesothelioma Patients

RelaxationIt was recently reported that a clinical trial that randomized patients to receive hypnosis and cognitive therapy had a statistically significant reduction in their fatigue levels as compared to 79 percent of patients who did not have this intervention. The sudy was led by Guy Montgomery, PhD, Director of the Integrative Behavioral Medicine Program at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York.

Two hundred breast cancer patients who were undergoing radiation therapy were eligible to participate in this study. It was unusual to find that six months after the completion of radiation therapy, the intervention group reported less fatigue than 95% of the control group (patients who did not receive hypnosis and cognitive therapy). Mesothelioma patients often receive radiation therapy following the completion of an extrapleural pneumonectomy (EPP) or a Pleurectomy Decortication (PD). Though there are no studies currently underway in mesothelioma, it seems reasonable that patients who will be undergoing surgery plus radiation should be put in touch with integrative medicine to ascertain what services might be available to them.

A few years back, we invited a hypnotherapist to conduct a workshop at the Meso Foundation’s Symposium to aid the community in banishing negative thoughts usually implanted during the initial diagnosis when they were informed of the disease and prematurely provided with a prognosis from a doctor unfamiliar with mesothelioma. A positive outlook certainly does not cure the disease, but patients who are positive tend to eat better, engage with others, and less often fall victim to depression, which could impact their ability to function.

The study, recently published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology (2014; doi:10.1200/JCO.2013.49.3437

New Discovery: Asbestos Used in Byzantine Art

Asbestos fiberWhen we think of asbestos today, we often think of shipyards, construction sites, the automotive industry, and many other places the material was used merely decades ago. However, asbestos has a much longer history. Recent findings reported by LiveScience are now linking asbestos use to Byzantine artwork.

A new discovery from UCLA researchers reveals that Byzantine monks used asbestos in the 12th century as a coating for plaster beneath wall paintings. They found chrysotile, also known as white asbestos, in Cyprus at Enkleistra of St. Neophytos, a Byzantine monastery. By using the white asbestos in the plaster coating, the artist achieved a desirable, smooth surface for painting on the wall.

Researchers were not looking for asbestos, but made this discovery while studying the painting. They now plan to conduct further research into other artwork at the monastery and revisit other sites in Cyprus to see if the asbestos use was consistent. They hope to understand why the asbestos was used in this fashion during the time period.

Asbestos use is actually quite ancient and can be dated back 4,500 years to a time when it was mixed with clay to reinforce pottery. It has also been found in textiles dated 2,000 years ago that were used to make fireproof napkins. Asbestos made a comeback as a popular material in late 19th century industrial products, and it was used in construction for decades.

Due to the historical use of asbestos and its natural occurrence in soil, a countless number of people have been exposed to these fibers. Asbestos is a known carcinogenic material, and exposure is linked to the development of diseases, including mesothelioma, one of the most aggressive and deadly cancers. The latency period between asbestos exposure and development of mesothelioma ranges between 20-50 years, meaning that patients today were exposed decades ago, and patients of tomorrow have likely already been exposed.

Approximately 3,500 Americans are diagnosed with mesothelioma every year, and there is currently no cure. 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 mesothelioma. You can learn more about this cancer and the asbestos-mesothelioma link at curemeso.org.

Stay Tuned this Fall for Three Regional Conferences on Mesothelioma

conferenceFollowing the successful conclusion of its annual Symposium, the Mesothelioma Applied Research Foundation (Meso Foundation) announced that later this year it will be the host of three regional conferences in Philadelphia, Chicago, and San Francisco, for mesothelioma patients, their families, and others interested in learning about the most up-to-date information on mesothelioma treatment. In a cancer like mesothelioma, for which patients generally must travel far and often just to consult with experts, the ability to meet mesothelioma specialists, listen to their talks, and engage with them one-on-one, without leaving the conference venue, is unique , but also of utmost importance.

“Informed and knowledgeable patients generally can make better decisions regarding their treatment and care than those unaware of all options, side-effects, and other considerations,” said Mary Hesdorffer, experienced nurse practitioner and executive director of the Meso Foundation.

The three conferences, organized in conjunction with the University of Pennsylvania, University of Chicago, and the University of California San Francisco, are meant to provide patients across the country with similar, albeit condensed, benefits of the organization’s annual Symposium (expert presentations, support sessions, socialization with peers and experts), but with less travel and with only a one-day commitment.

The conferences will be scheduled as follows and more information will be made available a thttp://www.curemeso.org. The Foundation encourages everyone interested to sign up for its e-newsletter, through which it will make detailed conference information, including dates, available in the next few months.

September – at the University of Pennsylvania (Philadelphia)
October – at the University of Chicago (Chicago)
November – at the University of California San Francisco (San Francisco)