The Meso Foundation Congratulates Reps. McCollum and Pingree for their Efforts to Advance Mesothelioma Research

The Meso Foundation congratulates Congresswomen Betty McCollum and Chellie Pingree for sending a letter to all members of the U.S. House of Representatives requesting they sign on to urge the National Cancer Institute to further mesothelioma research.

Alexandria, VA (PRWEB) December 03, 2013

Capitol HillYesterday, U.S. Congresswomen Betty McCollum (D-MN) and Chellie Pingree (D-ME) sent a “Dear Colleague” letter to all members of the U.S. House of Representatives asking them to join them in urging the National Cancer Institute to create a scientific framework for mesothelioma. The Mesothelioma Applied Research Foundation (Meso Foundation) has long advocated for the National Cancer Institute to increase their focus on mesothelioma, and congratulates Representative McCollum and Representative Pingree for their efforts on behalf of the mesothelioma community, including patients and families, physicians, advocates, and researchers dedicated to eradicating the life-ending and vicious effects of mesothelioma.

“Congresswomen McCollum and Pingree are leading a very important effort for everyone affected by mesothelioma by encouraging the National Cancer Institute to create a scientific framework to progress mesothelioma research,” said Meso Foundation’s executive director and nurse practitioner, Mary Hesdorffer.

“This is an incredible way to help thousands of patients affected by mesothelioma, and also honor our distinguished former board member and Congresswoman McCollum’s predecessor, Bruce Vento.”

Bruce Vento, was a prominent member of Congress who, after nearly 24 years of service succumbed to mesothelioma only eight months after diagnosis.

Representative Pingree’s constituent, mesothelioma survivor Lisa Gonneville spoke at the Capitol Hill briefing on Mesothelioma Awareness Day (September 26). Mrs. Gonneville pleaded that the staffers do something to address this deadly cancer.

“I’ve endured all of the treatment options available for mesothelioma, which are very limited,” said Mrs. Gonneville, “my only hope at this point is clinical trials.”

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 (NCI) the ability to identify recalcitrant cancers for which to establish scientific frameworks that will guide research efforts.

For each recalcitrant cancer, NCI is to convene a working group of both Federal and non-Federal individuals to provide expertise and assistance in developing the scientific framework. The frameworks are to be completed within 18 months of enactment, then submitted to Congress and made publicly available on the HHS website within 30 days. The bill requires the progress of each scientific framework be reported in the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Biennial Report, with an assessment of progress made in improving outcomes for recalcitrant cancers. The bill further states that the NCI Director “shall consider” each relevant scientific framework when making recommendations for exception funding for grant applications.

The Mesothelioma Applied Research Foundation has independently funded over $8.2 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 3,000 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 leading organization dedicated to eradicating mesothelioma and easing the suffering caused by it, by funding peer-reviewed mesothelioma research, providing patient support services and education, and advocating Congress for increased federal funding for research. Mesothelioma funding, per death, has historically been extremely low, and even as recently as 2007, the NCI reported that mesothelioma receives as little as 9 times less funding than other cancers. The Meso Foundation was founded in 2000 to address this imbalance and since then has independently funded over $8.2 million in peer-reviewed mesothelioma research.

More information is available at http://www.curemeso.org.

Recalcitrant Cancer Act: How this law can facilitate progress in mesothelioma research

ResearcherThe 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)1, giving the Director of the National Cancer Institute (NCI) the ability to identify recalcitrant cancers for which to establish scientific frameworks that will guide research efforts.

For each recalcitrant cancer, NCI is to convene a working group of both Federal and non-Federal individuals to provide expertise and assistance in developing the scientific framework. The frameworks are to be completed within 18 months of enactment, then submitted to Congress and made publicly available on the HHS website within 30 days. The bill requires the progress of each scientific framework be reported in the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Biennial Report, with an assessment of progress made in improving outcomes for recalcitrant cancers. The bill further states that the NCI Director “shall consider” each relevant scientific framework when making recommendations for exception funding for grant applications.2

In this legislation, a recalcitrant cancer is defined as a cancer “for which the five-year relative survival rate is below 50 percent.” Unfortunately, mesothelioma meets this definition, with only a five to ten percent five-year survival rate.  The legislation also seeks to target cancers that have “not seen substantial progress in the diagnosis or treatment.” Unfortunately, mesothelioma fits this stipulation as well. With only one FDA-approved treatment, many patients have to resort to off label use of chemotherapies, drastic surgery or with luck participation in clinical trials. There is also no test currently available for early detection of mesothelioma.

Substantial progress in mesothelioma has been made, and a scientific framework would help to further the advancement of mesothelioma research.  A gene that is linked to mesothelioma has been identified, and the NCI has recently announced patients responded well to treatment in their SS1P clinical trial. The Meso Foundation has already sent a letter to Dr. Harold Varmus, the Director of the NCI, urging him to designate mesothelioma as a recalcitrant cancer, and we will continue our advocacy efforts. Stay tuned for updates on our progress.

Sign up for the Mesothelioma Ambassador Program to join us in advocating that mesothelioma be designated as a recalcitrant cancer for a scientific framework.

To view the text of the bill, visit Thomas.gov and choose the advanced search option, then search HR 733.

Read more about the progress of the SS1P trial.

Learn more about the BAP1 gene in our blog post, “Genetics and the BAP1 Gene in Mesothelioma.”


Footnotes

1. www.thomas.gov, accessed November 20, 2013
2. http://legislative.cancer.gov, accessed November 20, 2013

BREAKING NEWS: SS1P Clinical Trial Results Published

Raffit_hassanToday, the Science Translational Medicine journal published the article “Major Cancer Regressions in Mesothelioma After Treatment with an Anti-Mesothelin Immunotoxin and Immune Suppression” by Dr. Raffit Hassan of the NCI, former chair and current member of the Meso Foundation’s Science Advisory Board.

Dr. Hassan explains:

Very few treatment options exist for patients with mesothelioma who have failed chemotherapy. In this months issue of Science Translational Medicine scientists from the National Cancer Institute report a promising treatment that may benefit some patients with mesothelioma. This treatment involves an immunotoxin (which consists of an antibody linked to a potent toxin) SS1P developed in Dr. Ira Pastan’s lab at the NCI, that targets the protein mesothelin present on mesothelioma cells. In previous trials SS1P had limited activity since most patients developed antibodies against the drug. However, in the current study, led by Dr. Raffit Hassan at the NCI, using two other drugs, pentostatin and cytoxan, which suppress part of the immune system, they were able to give patients more doses of SS1P. Out of the 10 evaluable patients treated 3 patients had significant tumor shrinkage and all three patients are alive more than 18 months after starting therapy. In addition, 2 patients who had previously progressed on chemotherapy had a tumor response when treated with chemotherapy following SS1P. Although a small study, these responses in patients who had advanced treatment refractory disease are encouraging and the investigators plan to conduct a larger study to validate these results.

The abstract of the study can be found here. The article was also followed by an editorial by Dr. Ravi Salgia and Dr. Martin Sattler: Sci Transl Med-2013-Salgia-208fs38.

For more information, please contact Mary Hesdorffer, Nurse Practitioner at mary@curemeso.org, (703) 879-3820, or use our Ask the Expert feature to get answers to your questions.

FROM THE MESOTHELIOMA APPLIED RESEARCH FOUNDATION’S “MEET THE EXPERTS” SERIES: An Evening of Research Breakthroughs with Dr. Raffit Hassan

Tonight, as part of the “Meet the Experts” podcasts presented exclusively from the Meso Foundation, Dr. Raffit Hassan, Senior Investigator and Chief of the Solid Tumor Immunotherapy Section in the Laboratory of Molecular Biology at the National Cancer Institute (NCI) and former Chair of the Meso Foundation’s Science Advisory Board, sat down with Mary Hesdorffer, Nurse Practitioner and Medical Liaison for the Meso Foundation, to discuss his research into mesothelin and development of  clinical trials  using mesothelin as a target for epithelial malignant mesothelioma, providing both pleural and peritoneal mesothelioma patients with the potential of much-needed new treatment options.

In his talk “Mesothelin: A New Target for Immunotherapy” Dr. Hassan discussed the novel therapies for the treatment of mesothelioma. Laboratory investigation, carried out by Dr. Ira Pastan, Dr. Hassan, and colleagues at the NCI, has demonstrated that mesothelin, a tumor antigen which was discovered at the NCI, is a useful target for tumor-specific therapy of malignant mesothelioma. Morab 009, a chimeric anti mesothelin monoclonal antibody, has completed a multi center trial and we expect to hear the results at the Annual  ASCO Meeting taking place in early June. (American Society of Clinical Oncology).

This evening, in his talk, Dr. Hassan outlined the approval process by which patients can become part of this trial.

Good candidates for this trial are generally those patients who have already had some type of treatment. For example, patients who are not good candidates for surgery or those who have had surgery in the past and patients who have had at least Alimta-based therapy would be considered good candidates.

The first step is an initial screening, beginning with the patient’s doctor and then a face-to-face interview with Hassan, his team, and all data from the patient’s physician. If, following the initial tests, the patient is found a suitable candidate, NCI will help with travel expenses to enable the patient to participate in the trial. “At no time,” Dr. Hassan assured, “either in the initial screening or in the trail itself is the patient charged for treatments.”

Some side effects have included weight gain and leg swelling, mainly coming from fluid retention, and a decrease in albumin, a blood protein. However, Dr. Hassan commented, “These side effects usually disappeared by the time of the patient’s discharge from the hospital.”

More information about this trial is available at the Meso Foundation by emailing mary@curemeso.org or by calling (703) 879-3820.

Mesothelin, defined by MedicineNet.com, is a protein found on cell surfaces. Certain antibodies bind themselves to mesotheliomas and other tumors, so soluble mesothelin-related proteins (SMR) are used to identify mesothelioma patients and to monitor the cancer’s progression of their disease. SMR concentrations tend to run higher with mesothelioma patients than patients battling other cancerous or pleural diseases, and SMR concentrations often correlate with tumor size and progression.

A 2011 recipient of the Meso Foundation’s Pioneer Award for breakthroughs in mesothelioma research, Dr. Hassan has focused his own trials on targeting mesothelin as a potential treatment of patients with mesothelioma. Dr. Hassan’s research began in the NCI laboratory and continues to this day.

If you missed tonight’s “Meet the Experts” presentation, you can replay Dr. Hassan’s talk or download it as one of our podcasts at our website.