Mesothelioma Researcher Receives Prestigious Grant from Department of Defense

Marjorie ZaudererMarjorie Zauderer, MD, is a medical oncologist at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center specializing in the care of lung cancer and mesothelioma patients, and serves as a member of the Meso Foundation’s Science Advisory Board. Recently, Dr. Zauderer was granted the Career Development Award to fund her mesothelioma research project.

Dr. Zauderer received the Career Development Award for her current research project involving the role of the BAP 1 gene (BRCA associated protein-1) in mesothelioma. Inherited mutations in the BAP1 gene have been shown to predispose patients to malignant pleural mesothelioma. “A better understanding of this gene could mean a better understanding of mesothelioma and how it develops in patients,” Zauderer states.

Dr. Zauderer began working on this project three years ago and has been gathering specimens and samples throughout this time. She predicts that enough samples will be collected within the next year or two to begin analysis that could yield significant insights and statistics. Her goal in 3 to 5 years is to have a plausible drug that has already completed phase 1 testing or is ready to begin phase 1 testing in clinical trials.

In an interview, Dr. Zauderer expressed her passion for her work, citing her many college application essays that she recently came across. “All my applications were about how I wanted to use genetics to help medicine. 20 years later, that’s actually what I do,” Zauderer states.

The Career Development Award provides funding from the Department of Defense to support a specific research project. Funding is provided to the selected project over a three year period, during which certain research components must be met and specific goals achieved. Mesothelioma is a disease of interest to the Department of Defense, as an estimated one third of mesothelioma patients either served in the Navy or worked in shipyards.

Learn more about Marjorie Zauderer at

Thank You to our Giving Circles Members: Rising Leaders Council

Giving CirclesIn 2014, the Meso Foundation established four Giving Circles to provide a source of vital funding for its patient programs and research grants. In exchange for annual unrestricted donations, members receive varied benefits and recognition. The Blue Ribbon Council provides an avenue for individuals who have lost loved ones to mesothelioma to come together for support. The Warrior Council offers mesothelioma patients, their family members and caregivers a safe haven where they can lean on and learn from each other while battling this disease. The Meso Professionals Council offers a place for professionals working in the mesothelioma field to demonstrate their commitment to the Meso Foundation and the individuals it serves.

Today, we would like to highlight the Rising Leaders Council. This is the first installment of a series of blog posts in which we will provide you the opportunity to get to know our council members and thank them for their commitment to the mission to cure mesothelioma.

The Meso Foundation established the Rising Leaders Council to create a community for up-and-coming fundraisers and advocates to come together in support of the Meso Foundation. Together, Rising Leaders Council members will help obtain the resources needed for the organization to continue its quest to eradicate mesothelioma.

Below, learn more about each of our Rising Leaders Council members.

Aria BendixAria Bendix

In 2009, Aria Bendix founded the Santa Margarita Catholic High School Breath of Hope Club in honor of her father, Ken, who passed away from peritoneal mesothelioma. In the past, she has interned for the Meso Foundation and helped to raise money for the Ken Bendix Memorial Research Grant through various volunteer efforts. Aria is from Trabuco Canyon, California and currently attends Harvard University.


Bella BendixIsabella Bendix

Isabella Bendix is President of the Breath of Hope Club started at her high school in honor of her father, Ken, who passed away from mesothelioma in September 2009. The proceeds from the Club’s fundraising events go toward the “Ken Bendix 2nd Memorial Research Grant.” Isabella has volunteered her time over the last three summers to work directly at the Meso Foundation. This past summer, she visited Senate offices to advocate for establishing a scientific framework for mesothelioma. Isabella is a high school senior and resides in Trabuco Canyon, California.


Marco BrittMarco D. Britt

Marco Britt has been involved with the Meso Foundation since 2014 when his father, Dennis E. Britt, passed away from pleural mesothelioma. He is dedicated to finding a cure and raising funds and awareness for mesothelioma warriors and their families. Marco is an attorney who lives in Miami, Florida.


Chastity BrownChastity Brown

Chastity Brown’s life was forever changed when her father, Glen D. Brown, passed away from mesothelioma. She is committed to raising awareness and funds for the Meso Foundation in memory of her father. Chastity has attended multiple fundraising events across the country to show her support for the meso community. She currently resides in Louisville, Kentucky and works as a Privacy and Compliance Consultant. Chastity also has a daughter in college.


Darlene CarenzaDarlene Carenza

Darlene Carenza connected with the Meso Foundation shortly after her mother, Donna Serbalik, was diagnosed with mesothelioma in 2011. After attending her first Symposium with her mother and advocating on Capitol Hill, Darlene vowed to get more involved with the foundation and help others who share the same struggles. Her mother passed away the same year — just a month after Darlene found out she was pregnant with her daughter (and future Rising Leader) Parker Rose. Darlene has hosted and participated in fundraising events and is dedicated to raising awareness and increasing funding for a cure. Darlene resides in Palmetto Bay, Florida with her husband and daughter. She is a Senior Produce and Content Director for Travelzoo.


Jennifer GelsickJennifer Gelsick

Jennifer Gelsick has dedicated herself to raising funds and awareness for mesothelioma warriors and their families since her father, Donald Edward Smitely, was diagnosed with mesothelioma. Despite the loss of her father, she remains committed to the Meso Foundation and has held a variety of fundraisers. Jennifer lives in Saint Marys, Pennsylvania with her husband and daughter. She and her husband own a home inspection company.

Erica IaconoErica Iacono

Erica Iacono has been involved with the Meso Foundation since 2000 when her father passed away from pleural mesothelioma. For the past 9 years, she has organized the 5K Walk for Hope in Long Island, New York and has raised nearly $200,000. Erica is also a board member for the Meso Foundation. She resides in Manhattan and is a writer working in public relations.



Sarah LacknerSarah Lackner

Sarah Lackner is a CPA residing in Arlington, Virginia. She has lost four family members to mesothelioma, most recently her mother Susan (2011) and her aunt Linda (2012). She is committed to the Meso Foundation’s mission of ending the disease and helping all of those affected. Sarah’s father, Ted Lackner, serves on the Meso Foundation’s Board of Directors.



Marina MintzMarina Mintz

Marina Mintz’s reality was turned upside down when her brother and best friend, Adam, was diagnosed with peritoneal mesothelioma in early 2000. After he died, Marina was determined to do something to help find a cure in hopes that others would not have to be subjected to this insidious disease. Marina has been involved in raising funds for the Meso Foundation since her very first event in December 2002 and she continues raising money by doing what she knows – throwing parties! Since that first event, Marina has joined forces with another member of the mesothelioma community with whom she co-hosts a poker tournament in the summer. Marina lives in Los Angeles, CA (soon to be Austin, TX) and is President of Paragon Language Services, the company her mother Hanne founded in 1991.


Jennifer ToddJennifer Todd

Jennifer Todd is the proud daughter of George Zachmann, a mesothelioma warrior living in Neavitt, Maryland. Jennifer has been inspired by her dad’s strength and would like to help the Meso Foundation increase asbestos and mesothelioma awareness and raise funds for clinical trials. Jennifer lives in Miami Beach, Florida with her two daughters and works for Morgan Stanley.



Jill WaiteJill Waite

Since 2012, Jill Waite has directed the Bruce A. Waite Mile for Meso 5k Run/Walk in Ohio. Her fundraising efforts not only raise awareness and funds for the Meso Foundation, but also help connect patients and families. She dedicates her race to her father, meso warriors, and their families. Jill works as a Counselor and Chaplain and resides in Ontario, Ohio. She is Godmother to Jack and Kate.


To learn more about the Rising Leaders Council and become a member, contact Erica Ruble at

GUEST BLOG: Erica Iacono on Evolving the Fundraising Process

5K Walk for Hopeby Erica Iacono, Meso Foundation Board of Directors and Rising Leaders Council

When my father died from pleural mesothelioma in April 2000 at the age of 51, I was in a hopeless place, looking anywhere for comfort. The Meso Foundation was in its infancy, nowhere near the organization it is today. Yet, I knew that I wanted to be involved in raising awareness and money for this cause. It was my coping mechanism and I jumped in. But I soon realized that organizing a fundraiser would be a huge undertaking by myself. It wasn’t until 2005, when the Foundation connected me with Janice Malkotsis, another woman who had lost her father to peritoneal mesothelioma and lived near me in New York, that the first 5K Walk for Hope became a reality and we planned something for the following spring.

That first year was tough; we canvassed all of Long Island—reaching out to companies to donate money or services and mailing (yes, real mail was still big!) hundreds of pamphlets and donation forms for the event. We got T-shirts and printing services donated so we could avoid that big expense. On the day of the walk, it was a literal monsoon outside and there was no rain date. We crouched under an awning in our spot in the park and were shocked as about 100 of our family members and friends showed up. I like to say it was like that final scene in “It’s a Wonderful Life” where the townspeople bring in piles of money to help George Bailey. When all was said and done, we had raised more than $20,000 — and this was before we started the online donations!

Now, as we prepare to hold the 10th Annual 5K Walk for Hope, I’m amazed at how we’ve been able to evolve the event over the past decade. In our second year, we were lucky enough to secure a sponsor who generously donated $5,000. A few years later, they were joined by a few others, all of whom have been sponsors ever since. We’ve recognized their generosity by printing their names on the back of our event t-shirts and announcing them at the beginning of every walk.

We also had to learn how to evolve our donation process. Early on, we received feedback that online donations would be far easier than getting cash or checks, so we worked with the Foundation to give each participant the option to form a team and get donations through a friends-asking-friends platform. We’ve even turned it into an informal competition with different teams, and we had our biggest year yet in 2013, raising $30,000 — nearly $15,000 of which was online. That was also the year we posted in local event listings and had an ad in the local newspaper. We were able to draw new participants and even two local college film crews who produced news segments for a class project. It may not have raised money, but it helped raised awareness; it was a few more people that now knew about mesothelioma, how it affects people, and the urgency to find a cure.

It’s hard to keep anything fresh after 10 years, but Janice and I have worked tirelessly to do so. I’ve also personally become increasingly involved with the Foundation, coming onto the Board of Directors in 2012 and recently becoming a member of the Rising Leaders Council. Both Janice and I have high hopes that this 10th annual 5K Walk for Hope, something neither of us could’ve predicted a decade ago, will be our best one yet. We originally decided on our name because we know it’s important to have hope when you’re talking about a disease with such a small survival rate. And we do have hope—hope that we’re making a true difference, hope that we can raise awareness, and hope that the nearly $200,000 we’ve raised will help people affected by this disease. That’s something that’s been at least 10 years in the making, and we’ll keep on doing this for as long as it takes to reach our end goal: a cure.

Important Information for Symposium Attendees

Symposium2015_ThemeGraphicWe are excited you will be joining us at the 2015 International Symposium on Malignant Mesothelioma! Please review the important information provided below as you prepare for your trip.

Read this information carefully, as this year’s Symposium is set up differently than in previous years. The conference will take place at both the Hyatt Regency Bethesda and the campus of the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Maryland.

The conference begins on Monday, March 2. On Monday morning, the first thing to do is catch the shuttle to the NIH. Shuttles will leave from the hotel’s main entrance at 7:00am and 8:30am. If you are attending our regular sessions (this applies to patients, caregivers, bereaved), feel free to take the 8:30am shuttle, as your sessions begin at 9:30am. If you are attending our sessions for scientists and medical professionals, you will need to take the 7:00am shuttle, as your sessions begin at 8:00am.

Breakfast will be provided to both groups upon arrival at the NIH, and you can pick up your name tag and packet at the conference registration table. If you miss the shuttles to the NIH, you will need to use other means of transportation, such as a taxi or the metro.

On Monday evening, shuttles will leave the NIH at 5:00pm to take attendees back to the Hyatt Regency Bethesda. This will allow you some free time to get ready for the Awards Dinner, which will begin at the hotel at 7:00pm in the Crystal Ballroom.

On Tuesday, March 3, the morning will again start with shuttles to the NIH. Shuttles will leave from the hotel’s main entrance at 7:00am and 8:30am. If you are attending our regular sessions (this applies to patients, caregivers, bereaved), feel free to take the 8:30am shuttle, as your sessions begin at 9:30am. If you are attending our sessions for scientists and medical professionals, you will need to take the 7:00am shuttle, as your sessions begin at 8:00am.

Breakfast will be provided to both groups upon arrival at the NIH.

On Tuesday evening, shuttles will leave the NIH at 5:00pm to take attendees back to the Hyatt Regency Bethesda. This will allow you some free time to get ready for the Community Dinner, which will begin at the hotel at 7:00pm in the Crystal Ballroom.

Wednesday, March 4 is Advocacy Day. Breakfast will be provided at 7:30am in the Haverford and Baccarat Ballrooms at the hotel. At this location, advocacy training and schedules will be handed out beginning at8:00am.

Shuttles will leave from the hotel’s main entrance at 8:45am to bring Advocacy Day participants to Capitol Hill. The shuttle will drop off on the Hill at Garfield Circle. In the evening, the shuttle will leave from the Peace Circle at 5:30pm to bring attendees back to the hotel. If you will be leaving directly from Advocacy Day, luggage will be stored at the Hyatt Regency Washington on Capitol Hill at 400 New Jersey Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20001

When you arrive to the DC area, you will want to navigate to the Hyatt Regency Bethesda. The hotel is located at One Bethesda Metro Center, Bethesda, MD 20814. A map and directions to the hotel are available here.

Please consult the forecast as you pack for your trip. The DC area can still be cold in early March, and nothing is worse than packing tank tops when you really need a sweater!

The Symposium dress code is casual to business casual. Some community members take the opportunity to dress up for the Awards Dinner, which will be held on Monday evening. Nonetheless, we encourage you to dress comfortably. If you will be participating in Advocacy Day, be sure to pack a business professional outfit and nice (but comfortable) shoes.

More information about the Symposium can be found at

Announcing the Winner of the 2015 Outstanding Nurse Award

Joanne RedondoWe are excited to announce that the 2015 recipient of the Meso Foundation’s June Breit and Jocelyn Farrar Outstanding Nurse Award is Joanne Redondo of the Hillman Cancer Center.

In January, we introduced our second annual campaign to choose a recipient of the June Breit and Jocelyn Farrar Outstanding Nurse Award. We began seeking a recipient through a nomination process. Meso Foundation community members submitted nominations for nurses who positively impact their lives. After receiving numerous nominations, five finalists were selected. We then let the community decide on the winner through a voting process. We provided short biographies and photos for each finalist and asked the community to vote for the nurse who they thought should receive the Outstanding Nurse Award. Nearly eight hundred votes later, we had our winner: Joanne Redondo.

Joanne Redondo began her career as a nurse 32 years ago when she graduated from Duquesne University in Pittsburgh, PA. She began her career at Presbyterian University Hospital, now known as UMPC Presbyterian Hospital. Her initial surgical career began with organ transplants, primarily liver, kidney, and pancreas. She worked for a team of transplant surgeons headed by Dr. Thomas Starzl, the pioneer of organ transplantation. Although Joanne loved the specialty, she decided to advance her career in the surgical Critical Care setting for the next 20 years. During that time, she took on several administrative roles, but her passion was always at the bedside providing direct patient care.

Joanne went back to graduate school in 2009 while working full time and teaching nursing students part-time at the university to help supplement her tuition. She graduated in May 2012 Summa Cum Laude from Duquesne University as a CRNP with a focus in Family Care. Joanne accepted a job working in the Surgical Oncology Division at the Hillman Cancer Center. Her specialty involved GI, liver, pancreas, melanoma, and mesothelioma type cancers.

While discussing her career in an interview, Joanne states, “As I embarked on a new chapter in my life, I did not realize how many families and lives I would affect on a daily basis. I have not only gained a new career, but I have gained endless new patients and families to love and care for.” Joanne works directly with mesothelioma patients. In discussing this, she states, “From my patients, although I continue to teach and support them about their own disease, I have in turn learned so much from them in regards to hope, perseverance, and living each day to the fullest.”

The June Breit and Jocelyn Farrar Outstanding Nurse Award will be presented at the Meso Foundation’s Awards Dinner on March 2, 2015 as part of the International Symposium on Malignant Mesothelioma at the Hyatt Regency Bethesda in Bethesda, Maryland. For more information about the event and to purchase tickets, visit

To learn more about the June Breit and Jocelyn Farrar Outstanding Nurse Award and the two courageous women for whom it is named, visit