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.

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.

Mesothelioma Conferences for Patients and Family, and for Scientists

The Mesothelioma Applied Research Foundation will host its 11th International Symposium on Malignant Mesothelioma, as well as a concurrent scientific seminar, on March 5-7, in Alexandria, VA.

Alexandria, VA (PRWEB) January 31, 2014

International Symposium on Malignant Mesothelioma

The Mesothelioma Applied Research Foundation is in the last planning stages of its 11th International Symposium on Malignant Mesothelioma for the mesothelioma community, as well as its first scientific seminar exclusive to scientists, both scheduled to take place on March 5-7, in Alexandria, VA.

This year, the Meso Foundation will be hosting two concurrent events. The International Symposium on Malignant Mesothelioma, a conference for the entire meso community now in its 11th year, will be complemented by a scientific seminar. As always, the Meso Foundation’s Symposium will be 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 this disease.

The Mesothelioma Scientific Seminar is a new program for medical professionals only, established this year and chaired by Drs. Richard Alexander of the University of Maryland and Lee Krug of Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center. In order to encourage and facilitate a high level of information-sharing, collaboration and learning, these sessions are not open to the general public. However, the renowned physicians presenting and attending the Seminar will be available to interact with Symposium attendees outside of their sessions.

For those unable to travel to attend the conference, the Meso Foundation will be live streaming most sessions. 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 and biomarkers, cancer stem cells, radiation oncology, chemotherapy: poison or antidote, pulmonary health, translation, comprehensive cancer program development, state of research, chemo brain, survivorship panel, asbestos risks, empowered patient, advocacy and meetings with elected officials, getting involved, and an update on the work of the Meso Foundation.

A detailed agenda of the Mesothelioma Scientific Seminar is available 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.

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.

Mesothelioma Researcher Receives Pioneer Award

Dr. Michele Carbone

Dr. Michele Carbone spoke at the Meso Foundation’s 2013 International Symposium on Malignant Mesothelioma

The Mesothelioma Applied Research Foundation announced today that the 2014 recipient of its Pioneer Award is Michele Carbone, MD, PhD, for his remarkable achievements in mesothelioma research.

Michele Carbone, MD, PhD is a Professor of Pathology and the Director of the University of Hawaii Cancer Center, a National Cancer Institute designated Consortium Cancer Center affiliated with the University of Hawaii – Manoa. He has published over 150 peer-reviewed papers, most in the area of the pathogenesis of mesothelioma.

In addition to his impressive publication record, Dr. Carbone is known in the mesothelioma community for his tireless work in the Turkish region of Cappadocia, where mesothelioma causes 50% of all deaths. Dr. Carbone discovered that a combination of environmental exposures and genetic predisposition were the reason for such a high incidence of mesothelioma among the villagers. Taking his role as a scientist a step further, alongside famed Turkish professor Izzettin Baris, Dr. Carbone demonstrated his compassion by convincing the Turkish government to move and rebuild the affected villages, thus removing them from the environmental exposures.

Dr. Carbone’s studies in Turkey led him to a life-long quest to identify genes implicated in mesothelioma. In 2001, he published in “The Lancet” that predisposition to developing mesothelioma was transmitted as an in an autosomal dominant character in certain Turkish families.

Subsequently, back in the United States, Dr. Carbone and Joseph Testa, PhD led their research team, which included Drs. Giovanni Gaudino, Harvey Pass, Jianming Pei, Mitchell Cheung, and Haining Yang, to study US families with a high incidence of mesothelioma, and through this collaboration discovered the “BAP1 cancer syndrome.” They found this “syndrome” to be caused by germline mutations of the BAP1 gene, which is characterized clinically by a very high risk of developing mesothelioma, melanoma, and other cancers.

Dr. Carbone is known in his field as a generous mentor, and has helped several prolific scientists enter the field of mesothelioma research. Dr. Haining Yang, is one researcher whose work with Dr. Carbone resulted in a peer-reviewed grant award of $100,000 from the Mesothelioma Applied Research Foundation which helped her to develop the data that allowed her two years later to win her NCI-RO1 and DOD grants to study mesothelioma.

“I have worked closely with Dr. Carbone over the years and have been impressed by his kindness and availability,” said Mary Hesdorffer, NP, Meso Foundation’s executive director. “He has been a leader in the field of mesothelioma research, and every one of his many contributions brings us that many steps closer to life-saving treatments for mesothelioma patients.”

The Pioneer Award honors individuals “pioneering” scientific advances in the field of mesothelioma, with the goal of eradicating the life-ending and vicious effects of mesothelioma. The award will be presented during the Awards Dinner, at the International Symposium on Malignant Mesothelioma in Alexandria, VA, on March 5-7.

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 Navy 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 it. 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 more 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.