Meso Foundation Receives $100,000 Donation from Best Buy Founder’s Family Foundation

Richard M. SchulzeRichard M. Schulze is the founder and chairman emeritus of Best Buy Co., Inc., the world’s largest multi-channel, consumer-electronic retailer. His connection to mesothelioma is a personal one. In 2001, Mr. Schulze lost his wife Sandra to mesothelioma. His current wife, Maureen, also lost her first husband to the same cancer.

Mr. Schulze’s family foundation donated $100,000 to the Meso Foundation, half of which will go toward the Foundation’s Patient Travel Grant Program. The focus area of the Richard M. Schulze Family Foundation is to create grant partnerships with organizations that can generate transformational results in education, human services and health.

Regarding the donation, Melinda Kotzian, CEO of the Meso Foundation, stated, “In the last year, we saw a 44% increase of patients and family members seeking support. This gift comes at the right time to help us ensure that we can fulfill such a demand.”

The Patient Travel Grant Program, one of the programs directly funded by the Schulze gift, provides a one-time grant of up to $1,000 to cover expenses incurred by a patient (exceptions made for recurring clinical trial visits). This $1,000 grant can cover the costs of travel, lodging and meals. To receive a grant, patients are required to complete an application and document significant financial need. The grant is paid by check directly to the patient.

This program is a crucial part of the services provided by the Meso Foundation. Mesothelioma treatment requires the expertise of a specialist who has extensive mesothelioma experience. Such experts are available at a limited number of centers, access to which often requires the patient to travel. Mesothelioma patients can greatly benefit from consulting with an expert. In many cases, the mesothelioma expert will be able to work with the patient’s local physicians to guide them through a more specialized treatment.

“We believe that every patient should have the chance to be seen by an appropriate mesothelioma expert, regardless of their ability to pay,” Melinda added. “Our Foundation and the entire mesothelioma community are infinitely grateful to the Schulze Family for their generous gift and belief in the work of the Meso Foundation.”

You can help support the Meso Foundation’s vital programs and patient services by giving to our year-end fundraiser at curemeso.org/savelives.

Learn more about the Meso Foundation’s Patient Travel Grant Program at curemeso.org.

We Need Your Help in the Fight Against Mesothelioma

Ziegler FamilyThe Meso Foundation has sent out a letter in the mail from Bill Ziegler. You can read it here. In his letter, Bill shares his inspiring story of fighting mesothelioma alongside his wife and three young children, and explains the important role that services provided by the Meso Foundation play in his fight against mesothelioma. Bill is a staunch believer that availability of resources and tools is an advantage in every aspect of life, and he treats mesothelioma no differently.

Bill’s story, and the stories of all other patients we have the privilege of knowing, are powerful reminders that we are on the right track, but that so much more needs to be done.

Over the years, this Foundation has taken very seriously its mission to eradicate mesothelioma and ease the suffering caused by this cancer. We have responsibly invested resources into mesothelioma research, education, patient support, and advocacy, and our work is paying off. We are witnessing advances, with a direct impact on patient survival, that a decade ago was unimaginable. In the last year, the number of patients who contacted the Foundation to obtain help has increased by 44%.

As we look ahead to the coming year, we hope you can help us fulfill this demand by making a year-end gift to the Meso Foundation. I invite you to read more about the full impact of the Meso Foundation’s work on our website.

Our online donation page makes it easy and convenient to give a secure tax-deductible donation by credit card, or if you’d prefer, you may also donate by check by mailing it to:

Mesothelioma Applied Research Foundation
1317 King Street
Alexandria, VA 22314

Donate

Thank you for your participation in our year-end fundraising efforts. Your support saves lives!

Deadly Cancer Disproportionately Affects Our Veterans

Veterans DayFor many veterans, danger is a relic of the combat zone, a distant memory rarely accessed. However, for some of our dedicated servicemen and women, a new kind of danger can begin 20 to 50 years after returning home.

Mesothelioma is an aggressive and deadly form of cancer connected with exposure to asbestos. Due to its latency period of several decades, the development of disease is mostly unexpected.  As a result of asbestos exposure while serving, a disproportionate number of our veterans are at risk for developing mesothelioma. In fact, one third of the 3,000 Americans who develop this cancer every year either served in the Navy or worked in shipyards.

Asbestos, which is a naturally occurring mineral, was, until very recently, heavily used in construction and shipbuilding. Due to its insulation and heat resistant properties, there was virtually no place on a ship where asbestos was not used. Our Navy personnel has reported not only working around asbestos in boiler and engine rooms, but also sleeping under white dust falling from the pipes above their bunks.

Because mesothelioma is quite difficult to diagnose, we would like to encourage all veterans to inform their healthcare providers if they have ever been in contact with asbestos, even if it was many years ago. An earlier diagnosis generally affords more treatment options with a better prognosis. The Mesothelioma Applied Research Foundation is available as a free resource for anyone affected by this cancer. Read more information about mesothelioma specific to veterans.

This Veterans Day, the Meso Foundation honors the brave men and women who served in the U.S. armed forces. We admire your service, sacrifice, and courage. Thank you.

Message to Pharma: Large Trials in Mesothelioma are Possible

Dr. Lee Krugby Lee Krug, MD, Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center

This month, a notification was sent to investigators on the DETERMINE Trial that accrual will be completed by the end of October. DETERMINE is an international, randomized trial comparing treatment with an immunotherapy drug called tremelimumab to treatment with placebo as second or third line therapy in patients with malignant mesothelioma. The trial opened in May, 2013, and in just 17 months will have enrolled 564 patients! This is a notable achievement. To put this in perspective, the last phase III of this magnitude testing vorinostat in a comparable group of patients (VANTAGE Trial) took 5 1/2 years to enroll 660 patients. There are differences between these two trials that could have accounted, in part, to the more rapid accrual. In DETERMINE, 2/3 of the patients receive the study drug, 1/3 get placebo, while in VANTAGE it was half and half. Also, immunotherapy drugs such as tremelimumab have garnered tremendous excitement in the oncology field due to their promising results in numerous cancers such as melanoma skin cancer and lung cancer. Yet, despite these differences, this accomplishment of completing a trial of this size in such a short period of time should be a wake-up call to the pharmaceutical industry. Historically, drug companies have been reluctant to undertake large trials in mesothelioma due to concerns about feasibility and slow accrual. But this trial demonstrates the potential. Patients with mesothelioma urgently need better treatments, and with only one chemotherapy regimen approved, there is a tremendous opportunity to impact the outcomes for these patients. So here is the message to pharma: Large trials in mesothelioma are possible, and the community of patients with mesothelioma is eager to participate.

Lee M. Krug, MD, is an Associate Attending Physician in the Division of Thoracic Oncology, Department of Medicine at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York, New York where he completed a fellowship and chief fellowship in medical oncology. Dr. Krug is the Director of the Mesothelioma Program at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center. Read more about Dr. Krug’s work here.

Best of iMig 2014: Day 3

Mary at iMig***The Best of iMig 2014 updates were created by iMig and distributed to conference attendees during iMig 2014. The following is a verbatim re-post of those updates.***

The Need for Early Intervention in a Heterogeneous Disease

Early detection and treatment are essential in mesothelioma
Click here to watch Dr. Jan van Meerbeeck discuss early detection

Understanding Checkpoint Inhibition in Mesothelioma

Programmed death ligand 1 (PD-L1) expression is an independent adverse prognostic factor in malignant pleural mesothelioma (MPM) – Steven C Kao
Upregulation of PD-L1 may allow cancers to evade the host immune system. We examined the association of PD-L1 expression with clinicopathological characteristics and outcomes in patients with MPM. Archival tumour samples from consecutive MPM patients undergoing pleurectomy/decortication were used to construct tissue microarrays and immunohistochemistry was undertaken using primary antibody against PD-L1. Survival was determined by Kaplan-Meier method and compared using log-rank test. Multivariate analysis was performed using the Cox regression model.  Our analysis included 69 patients (median age 65 years; 81% male; 49% epithelial subtype).  The median overall survival (OS) was months. Ten cases exhibited PD-L1 staining (14.5%) and PD-L1 expression was associated with poor survival (median OS: 4 vs. 9.2 months, p<0.001). Adjusting for gender, age and histosubtype in multivariate analyses, PD-L1 expression remained a significant adverse prognostic indicator (HR 3.5, 95% CI: 1.6-7.8; p<0.01).  These results indicate that PD-L1 expression occurred more frequently in the non-epithelial subtypes of MPM and was independently associated with adverse prognosis.

Improving immune checkpoint blockade efficacy in mesothelioma: a systems biology approach – W. Joost Lesterhuis
Antibodies blocking immune checkpoint molecules such as CTLA-4 have been to be shown efficacious in thoracic cancers, with some patients displaying durable complete regression. However, many patients do not show this positive reactivity after treatment. It is not known what molecular events govern an effective response or what the best treatments are to combine it with.  We followed two strategies to improve checkpoint blockade efficacy in preclinical models. First, we tested various cytotoxic chemotherapeutics since recently many immunopotentiating effects for these drugs have been uncovered. Second, we characterized the molecular response to anti-CTLA-4 in a subcutaneous murine tumour model, using gene expression data from responding and non-responding tumours. We subsequently identified synergistic anti-CTLA-4/drug combinations using a computational drug repurposing approach.  We found that treatment with gemcitabine chemotherapy in combination with anti-CTLA-4 blockade resulted in the induction of a potent anti-tumour immune response; and using the systems biology approach, we identified and validated in vivo several drugs that increased the response rate to anti-CTLA-4 in a synergistic manner.

Stem Cell-directed Therapy: Synergy of a Novel Combination

The Cancer Stem Cell Inhibitors VS-6063 (Defactinib) and VS-5584 Exhibit Synergistic Anticancer Activity in Preclinical Models of Mesothelioma

Dr. Mitch Keegan discusses new findings indicating synergistic effects of defactinib (VS 6063), a FAK inhibitor, and VS-5584, a potent and selective small molecule inhibitor of PI3K and mTORC1 and mTORC2, in an animal model of mesothelioma.
Click here to watch Dr. Keegan 

Social Advocacy Remains Critical for Protection against Asbestos

The Critical Role Scientists and Health Professionals Can Play to Prevent Asbestos-Related Harm: Recent Examples and Lessons Learned – Kathleen Ruff
Evidence of harm caused by asbestos has been available for many decades. Yet the asbestos industry continues to place almost 2 million tons of asbestos every year in buildings and infrastructure in developing countries. For a century, Canada was a leading asbestos producer, exporter and propagandist. Scientists can play a key part in preventing a continuing epidemic of asbestos-related diseases. They have scientific credibility to challenge the industry’s misinformation and to demand evidence-based public health policy.

Together with human rights advocates and victims groups, scientists challenged Canada’s asbestos policy. They recognized that, when scientific evidence is distorted so as to endanger health, silence is not neutrality, it is complicity. They exposed the industry’s misinformation; they challenged the double standard whereby vulnerable populations overseas were being exposed to harm; they held policy makers, particularly those with a duty to protect health, accountable; they intervened in the public policy process; they shared their expertise with the larger public thus countering the lobbying efforts of vested interests.

In a few short years, the asbestos industry lost political and public support. Consequently, in 2011, the Quebec government shut down the industry by cancelling a crucial loan.

Our experience in Canada shows how scientists and health professionals can cooperate to achieve a critically important outcome. Scientists have a responsibility to defend the integrity of science and public health policy. As the Canadian asbestos issue demonstrates, when scientists fulfill that responsibility, they can have significant impact in preventing harm.

Community Perspectives on Compensation for Asbestos-Related Diseases, including Mesothelioma, in South Africa

Current compensation systems are based on individual claims and therefore cannot address the social costs of the asbestos industry. Much remains to be done to address retrenchment, poverty, environmental contamination, gender concerns and the burden of asbestos-related disease.
Click here to watch Sophia Kisting discuss compensation for asbestos-related diseases 

A Perspective of the Importance of Science and Social Activism in Asbestos-related Disease

The asbestos industry continues to make claims clearly contrary to the wealth of data documenting the dangers associated with exposure. It is critical that scientists and clinicians be aware of these claims and take a central role in debunking them.
Click here to watch Kathleen Ruff comment on the role of scientists 

Staging and Surgery in Mesothelioma

IMIG/IASLC Staging

A reliable staging system for malignant pleural mesothelioma has been very elusive. The IMIG/IASLC, TNM Staging System has become a worldwide standard, but has limitations.
Click here to watch Dr. Jeremy Steele discuss IMIG IASLC 

North American Multicenter Feasibility Trial of Volumetric CT for the Clinical Staging of MPM

Volumetric assessment of malignant pleural mesothelioma is feasible at a research level. Translation to clinical practice may need improvement in quantitative assessment of malignant pleural mesothelioma and overcoming some of the technological limitations.
Click here to watch Dr. Ritu Gill discuss volumetric 

The Best of iMig 2014 – Comments from the Incoming President

Professor Dean Fennell, the incoming President of iMig, summarizes his views on the “Best of iMig”
Click here to watch Prof. Dean Fennell summarize the highlights 

The Best of iMig 2014 – a Final Word
iMig 2014 brought together nearly 300 scientists, clinicians, and patient advocates from around the world to Cape Town for 4 exciting days that included nearly 350 platform and poster presentations. The meeting provided a forum for sharing information about new technologies, the latest basic and clinical research findings, and how we can join together to help patients with this disease and educate all about the dangers of asbestos exposure.

This international conference was a great success and continues the work of iMig aimed at understanding and ultimately preventing and defeating mesothelioma.

To learn more about iMig 2014, read Best of iMig 2014: Day 1 and Best of iMig 2014: Day 2.

“Best of iMig 2014” has been supported by the unrestricted sponsorship of Versastem, Inc.

***The Best of iMig 2014 updates were created by iMig and distributed to conference attendees during iMig 2014. The following is a verbatim re-post of those updates.***