Veterans and Mesothelioma

flags_veterans3On November 11, we observe Veterans Day and recognize the courage and sacrifice of our service men and women who protect our freedoms.

On this day, we must also recognize the great tragedy that is the exposure to asbestos that our nation’s heroes have endured. We can not only document the asbestos exposures over the course of the twentieth century, but we have evidence that one-third of American mesothelioma patients were exposed while serving their country or working as civilians aboard Navy ships or in shipyards.

Asbestos exposure among Navy personnel was widespread from the 1930s through the 1980s, and exposure to asbestos still occurred after the 1980s during ship repair, overhaul, and decommissioning. Unlike popular belief, we have not yet seen the end of exposures to asbestos. In fact, asbestos exposures have been reported among the troops in Iraq and Afghanistan and soldiers in wars that extend into third world countries, where asbestos use is increasing without stringent regulations, may also be at risk. These facts are troublesome because we now know that even low-dose, incidental exposures, can cause mesothelioma.

For all those who will develop mesothelioma as a result of these past or ongoing exposures, the only hope is development of better treatments. Currently, there is no cure for this disease and treatments available today are few and marginally effective.

The Mesothelioma Applied Research Foundation (Meso Foundation) seeks to change this landscape to make sure that patients of today and those of tomorrow have treatments available to them. To do so, it focuses on funding mesothelioma research, providing education and support services, and advocating for a larger federal investment into mesothelioma research. To date, the Meso Foundation itself has funded over $7.6 million in research.

In addition, the Meso Foundation has successfully advocated the inclusion of mesothelioma to the list of diseases eligible to receive funding from the Congressionally Directed Medical Research Program, administered through the Department of Defense. Each spring the Foundation testifies before Congress, mobilizes the community to advocate, and makes multiple in-person visits on Capitol Hill to ensure that mesothelioma researchers are eligible to apply for this crucial funding. To date, the program has funded $8.8 million in funding for mesothelioma research. The Foundation has also nominated meso warriors to serve as peer reviewers during the grant making process each year to ensure that the patient voice is heard.

The video below displays meso warrior and Navy veteran, Mike Clements, as he shares his story for Capitol Hill staffers in a 2011 breifing:

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6KQFQ5A0dLA]

To learn more about the CDMRP and meso warrior Julie Gundlach’s experience as a peer reviewer for the grants, view this session form our 2012 Symposium:

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7MftRsIaTR0]

This is the Meso Foundation’s executive director Mary Hesdorffer, Nurse Practitioner, testifying before the Senate Appropriations Committee:

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Vk2FeuIEwjc]

View here all of the grants funded by the CDMRP to date.

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