When patients and their families need help following a diagnosis or throughout treatment, the Meso Foundation is there for them – day or night.
But getting patients and their families through the immediate treatment is only one side of tackling this disease. At the Meso Foundation, we believe that research into new treatments is fundamental to eradicating mesothelioma and the suffering caused by it. In fact, our mission statement emphasizes that the Foundation must “fund the highest quality and most promising meso research projects from around the world through rigorous peer review.”
Yesterday, the Meso Foundation released the important news that, this year, researchers from across the world submitted 48 proposals for funding (22 applications were from international applicants). In the next week, we will divide the number of submitted proposals among our Science Advisory Board (SAB) members and assign approximately 7 to 10 proposals to each reviewer, and 2 to 3 reviewers to each proposal.
Our SAB is made up of scientists and doctors from around the world, who have devoted their lifework to researching mesothelioma, making them the peers of our applicants, thus making our review a peer review.
We placed the adjective “rigorous” into the sentence describing our peer review, because it truly is. The review process consists of scoring and critiquing each and every application submitted. Below are a few examples of the detailed questions each reviewer is asked when reviewing a proposal.
- Does the project address an important problem or a critical barrier to progress in the field?
- How will successful completion of the aims change the concepts, methods, technologies, treatments, services, or preventative interventions that drive this field?
- Are the PD/PIs, collaborators, and other researchers well suited to the project?
- Does the application challenge and seek to shift current research or clinical practice paradigms by utilizing novel theoretical concepts, approaches or methodologies, instrumentation, or interventions?
- Are the overall strategy, methodology, and analyses well-reasoned and appropriate to accomplish the specific aims of the project?
- Will the scientific environment in which the work will be done contribute to the probability of success?
The reviewers must then score each proposal according to these questions, on a scale of 9 to 1, with 1 being the highest possible score. In September, these scores will be collected and the proposals ranked accordingly. Only the top half of the total number of proposals will pass this stage and move to the next, where they will be scrutinized further in depth.
At this point, we select SAB members who are experts in the fields of those applicants whose projects have advanced. This ensures that the proposals are evaluated by someone who can speak to the plausibility and soundness of the hypothesis submitted, which, in turn, ensures that our funding be awarded to the most promising projects.
Following the second round, the proposals are once again scored and ranked. Based on this line-up, each remaining application is opened for discussion by the entire SAB. We hold a conference-call in November to facilitate this discussion and we come away with a solid list of top 10 projects. This list is presented in January to the Board of Directors, which selects proposals for funding. This decision is based on the critiques and ranking received from the SAB, and the financial capability of the Foundation.
At the end of this process, an approved application will have moved through three review cycles, be assessed by no less than 6 SAB members, be scrutinized by at least one expert within its specific field, and approved by the two governing bodies of the organization.
This is, no doubt, a relatively long and labor-intensive process, but it is a necessary one to make sure that the limited funds available for research are spent responsibly only on the most promising and the highest quality studies. As a nonprofit organization, we have an obligation to our patients, constituents and donors to make the most of their donations and support, and with this review model, we believe to fulfill and exceed all expectations.
The House approved the fiscal year 2014 Defense Appropriations bill (H.R. 2397) on a vote of 315 to 109. The bill includs funding for the Congressionally Directed Medical Research Programs, including the Peer Reviewed Cancer Research Program in which mesothelioma is a topic area.
Each year, the Meso Foundation advocates to continue and increase this vital funding. As a result, $8.8 million dollars has been given to mesothelioma research to date. This is a victory in today’s tough economic climate.
For more information, read our earlier blog regarding this topic.
If you are a federal employee (including military personnel), you are eligible to participate in the Combined Federal Campaign’s (CFC) fundraising drive. The CFC allows federal employees to make tax-deductible donations to their charity of choice directly through payroll deductions.
The Mesothelioma Applied Research Foundation is eligible to receive your donations. In order to ensure that your donation is allocated to the Meso Foundation, please mark our CFC number in your forms:
Mesothelioma Applied Research Foundation’s CFC Number: 11856
Mesothelioma is a disease that strikes approximately 3,500 Americans per year, and that disproportionately affects military personnel. In fact, it is estimated that 30% of all mesothelioma patients served in the US Navy or worked in shipyards.
According to Wikipedia:
“the CFC is the largest workplace charity campaign in the United States and the only campaign authorized to solicit and collect contributions from federal employees in the workplace on behalf of charitable organizations. As the world’s largest and most successful annual workplace giving campaign, each year, more than 350 CFC campaigns throughout the United States and internationally help to raise millions of dollars. Nearly four million federal employees and military personnel are able to contribute to the charities of their choice during the annual charity drive, which runs from September 1 through December 15 of each year. Pledges made by Federal civilian, postal, and military donors during the campaign season support eligible non-profit organizations that provide health and human service benefits throughout the world. These contributions can be made either by cash or check, or can be automatically deducted from these employee’s paychecks.”
by Laurie Kazan-Allen
The publication of an article entitled “Mesothelioma – The British Disease” in mid-June, 2013 set the tone for a summer of legislative, political, and public mobilization on asbestos. As groups representing asbestos victims lobbied politicians over the unfairness of provisions in the Mesothelioma Bill, members of the House of Lords tabled amendments to address the woeful lack of British funding for mesothelioma research. Lord Alton proposed that a levy be imposed on the insurance industry to fund medical research into mesothelioma; unfortunately, this amendment was defeated during a heated debate in the House of Lords. After the summer recess, the Bill will go to the House of Commons.
The importance of research funds and a coordinated research strategy were highlighted on July 3, 2013 in a presentation made by Mary Hesdorffer, NP Executive Director of the Mesothelioma Applied Research Foundation (Meso Foundation) to the Parliamentary Asbestos Sub-Group during its annual seminar in the House of Commons. Mary’s participation at this high-level Westminster event was warmly received as was the input by her colleague Dr. Daniel Sterman from the University of Pennsylvania Medical Center. Ms. Hesdorffer, NP and Dr. Sterman were the first American medical experts to take part in this event which has been a fixture of the Parliamentary calendar for well over a decade.
Commenting on her experience, Ms. Hesdorffer said:
“I was delighted to have this opportunity to discuss in Parliament the role of government as well as private sector funding in spurring innovative research to end the suffering caused by mesothelioma. All opportunities to collaborate and confer on the needs of those affected by mesothelioma are most welcome and in light of the increasing number of cases being diagnosed worldwide, we need to explore ways in which we can work more closely together on this global pandemic.”
By good luck and advanced planning, Mary and Dan were able to take part in Action Mesothelioma Day (AMD) events on July 5 in Birmingham and Liverpool. AMD is marked by asbestos victims groups, cancer charities, and civic officials throughout the country and has become a focal point for efforts to raise research funds and public awareness of mesothelioma, a disease killing more than 2,000 British citizens every year. It was a privilege to join Mary in Birmingham for the activities mounted by Asbestos Support West Midlands. The appeal for mesothelioma research funds by the Birmingham group raised £4,500!
Speaking about the day’s events, Doug Jewell, Coordinator of Asbestos Support West Midlands, commented:
“It seemed that Mary and Laurie brought the good weather with them when they came to Birmingham. After the 2012 storms, it was great to be able to be able to mark Action Mesothelioma Day under blue skies. The speakers’ input during the official segment of the program was much appreciated by our friends and colleagues, most of whose lives have been impacted by mesothelioma. There was a great deal of interest in Mary’s discussion of the clinical trials and new drugs being used in the US and UK with many people following up on information she presented in the days after the seminar.”
In the aftermath of AMD, work continues by mesothelioma sufferers and asbestos victims’ groups to raise awareness of a deadly epidemic that shows no signs of abating. Research means hope and it was a message of hope that Mary and Dan so ably transmitted during the time they spent with us in the UK.
About Laurie Kazan-Allen
Ms. Laurie Kazan-Allen has been researching, writing and campaigning on asbestos issues for more than twenty years. The British Asbestos Newsletter, the quarterly publication she founded in 1990, is widely regarded as one of the most authoritative contemporary sources of information by the UK community of asbestos activists. In collaboration with international colleagues, in 1999 she established The International Ban Asbestos Secretariat (IBAS). As the IBAS Coordinator she has organized and/or participated in asbestos events on six continents, amongst the most recent of which was an asbestos hearing at the European Parliament.
As an adviser to the UK All Party Parliamentary Asbestos Sub-Group, Ms. Kazan-Allen helps organize the annual Parliamentary asbestos seminar. Kazan-Allen has written prolifically about asbestos issues in 85+ issues of the British Asbestos Newsletter and in IBAS publications such as Eternit and the Great Asbestos Trial, Report on the Asian Asbestos Conference 2009, India’s Asbestos Time Bomb and Killing the Future – Asbestos Use in Asia. These and other texts can be accessed at www.britishasbestosnewsletter.org and www.ibasecretariat.org