Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Strong Against Proposed Asbestos Mesothelioma Legislation

Mesothelioma.com today announced its dissenting opinion on the recent asbestos bill soon to come before congress. Mesothelioma.com has reviewed the recent asbestos bill proposed by Sen. Arlen Spector and Sen. Patrick Leahy (news, bio, voting record) and has come out strongly against the proposed bill. We believe the bill is unworkable, under-funded, and unconstitutional.

While legislation proposed in Washington, D.C., by Pennsylvania Senator, Arlen Specter, on its face seems to allay a number of issues regarding litigation over asbestos-related disease, the Asbestos Bill actually raises impossible hurdles for victims and bails out politically well-connected corporations.

Senator Specter acknowledges that he can't pass a 'perfect' bill, but offers little solace to the mesothelioma victims who'll die before they see any help from the fundamentally flawed asbestos bailout bill approved by the Judiciary Committee.

Every major asbestos victims' organization opposes this bill, while being supported by the corporate defendants who knowingly poisoned their workers and the public with asbestos and would receive billions of dollars in liability relief.

A few of the fundamental problems with the fund include:

  • The fund is under-funded by at least $16 billion (according to the CBO) and possibly as much as $49 billion (analysis by asbestos claims expert Mark Peterson) or even $100 billion (Environmental Working Group). Bankruptcy of the fund and taxpayer bailout is likely.
  • Every single similar government trust fund has failed.
  • In its current form the fund will immediately be mired in litigation from existing asbestos trusts, insurance companies, small businesses, and the thousands of victims unfairly excluded from the fund.
  • By moving all pending claims into the fund, the fund is guaranteed to have a huge backlog at startup.
  • Victims with community exposure and 9/11 victims - even firefighters, police, and emergency workers - are barred from receiving any compensation. The disparity between their treatment and the treatment of similar victims in Libby, Montana is likely unconstitutional.
  • There is no real sunset process for victims to return to the courts when the fund becomes bankrupt.
  • While treating unfairly or shutting out those poisoned by asbestos, the companies that poisoned them are rewarded with a multi-billion dollar bailout.

Mesothelioma.com plans to inform its readers on the progress of the bill in the senate and the house, throughout the month of January. More information about the bill can be found at http://www.mesothelioma.com . Call your local Senator or Congressman and let them know you oppose bill S.852.

Phase III Clinical Trial on Pleural Mesothelioma

Emory Winship Cancer Institute will be one of two facilities in Georgia to conduct a phase III clinical trial of Vorinostat (oral suberoylanilide hydromaxic acid) in patients with advanced cancerous pleural mesothelioma. The purpose of the study is to test the safety and efficacy of Vorinostat as well as to compare the overall survival associated with therapy of the drug.

A rare but devastating disease, it is estimated that 2,000 to 3,000 new mesothelioma cases will be diagnosed each year in the United States. Mesothelioma is cancer of the cells found in the mesothelium, which is the protective lining covering most of the internal organs of the body. Pleural mesothelioma is the most common type of mesothelioma, and it is identified by the presence of malignant cells located in the tissue outside of the lungs and inside of the ribs.

Vorinostat is an experimental drug that is believed to work against cancer cells. When cells become malignant, chemical reactions inside the cancer cell allow those cells to multiply out of control. Vorinostat may stop the growth of tumor cells by blocking some of the enzymes needed for cell growth.

The principal investigator on the Vorinostat clinical trial at Winship is Dong M. Shin, MD, Professor of Hematology/Oncology and Otolaryngology; Director of Clinical and Translational Cancer Prevention Programs; and Co-Director of the Lung and Aerodigestive Tract Malignancies Program at Emory Winship Cancer Institute. Dr. Shin joined Winship in 2003 after more than 15 years as a faculty member at M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston and the University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute.

"This is a very important study for this terrible disease," said Dr. Shin. "As a second line treatment, there are currently no options other than this clinical trial."

Eligibility for the Vorinostat clinical trial requires a diagnosis of unidimensionally measurable cancerous pleural mesothelioma, which has progressed or relapsed following therapy with pemetrexed in combination with either Cisplastin or Carboplatin.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Second International Mesothelioma Symposium

Fresh evidence of progress in the diagnosis and treatment of an aggressive asbestos-related cancer was the highlight of the Second International Symposium on Cancerous Mesothelioma last week. Long considered lethal, meso is a tumor that invades the linings of the lungs, abdomen, heart or testicles. The Mesothelioma Applied Research Foundation (MARF) organizes the annual symposium, held this year in Las Vegas Nevada, to unite the meso community and focus on curing the disease.

Advances in detection, multimodal treatment, gene therapy, and immunotherapy were among the topics that thrilled the audience. Ann Ferrero, whose mother was diagnosed with meso a year ago, admitted that "Last year my entire family reeled from the shock." The information presented at the symposium, however, left her feeling -- in her own words, "moved, grateful . and, dare I say . hopeful!".

The symposium is unique in that it brings together doctors, scientists, advocates, meso patients and families to learn from each other and exchange research results, study findings, and review progress. MARF Director of Communications, and 4 year pleural meso survivor, Klaus Brauch, stated that "the most important sign of progress for me was that we are now talking about second-line treatments, something of great interest to those of us concerned about recurrences. A few years ago just surviving first-line treatment was an achievement." MARF, which has awarded over two million dollars of meso research funding, continues to be the only independent non-profit organization actively working to eradicate meso as a life-ending disease.

Attendees were able to meet and ask questions of some of the world's leading meso experts. Ferrero commented that "the ability to interact with the medical community on such an informal level was unique. I came back with several leads for my mom." In addition, over thirty meso patients, including numerous long-term survivors, were in attendance. Ferrero found meeting them to be "uplifting," and when she met the dedicated staff of MARF she found them to be "clearly devoted to curing this disease.".

The symposium also featured presentation of the Pioneer Award, an award MARF introduced this year to honor companies that have made substantial contributions to the field of meso research. Alfacell CEO Kuslima Shogen, one of the recipients, stated that "it is a great honor to receive one of the first MARF Pioneer Awards," and promised to "continue to work with [MARF] on the mission to find a cure." Other companies recognized with the Pioneer Award were Eli Lilly, Merck, Biogen Idec, Fujirebio Diagnostics, Genentech and Novartis.

MARF also held a poignant tribute ceremony dedicated to the lives and memory of meso patients lost to the cancer. Against the backdrop of a huge memorial wall, the names of the deceased were read by loved ones and candles were lit to commemorate their lives and their presence in spirit with the mission to cure the disease. Break out sessions for care givers, for patients, and for the bereaved allowed each one to focus on the specific needs of their group and exchange concerns in a safe and nurturing environment.

This year's winner of MARF's annual "Congressman Bruce Vento Hope Builder Award" was none other than the founder of MARF, Roger Worthington, without whose vision and hard work over the last six years neither MARF nor this unique symposium would exist. The awarded was presented by MARF Board of Directors member Susan Vento. Her husband, Minnesota congressman Bruce Vento -- who died from meso in 2000, was beloved for his work to build hope for overlooked communities. Worthington was honored for working, in much the same way, to create hope for the overlooked community of meso patients and those at risk by focusing on the need for effective treatments. The gala reception featured a stirring performance by recording artist Jordan Zevon, whose father, musician and composer Warren Zevon, died of mesothelioma in 2003.

The symposium was made possible through the generosity of financial supporters Eli Lilly, Simmons Cooper, Waters and Kraus, Stanley, Mandel and Iola, Bergman and Frockt, The David Law Firm, Merck, Alfacell Corporation, and Fujirebio Diagnostics. Attendees, whether patients, doctors, caregivers or industry executives, were all moved by the tributes, inspired by the presentations and energized by the resolve of presenters, the organizers and the audience to continue to fight for a cure for this terrible cancer. Planning for next year's symposium is already underway, and details should be announced soon.

Asbestos Link From Welding Rods To Mesothelioma

This case has been pending in New York State appeals court for some time, but on Dec. 29th in a first-ever jury finding that asbestos-containing welding rods, sold in the billions up to the early 1980's, had caused lung cancer and mesothelioma. Attorney Jerome H. Block of the nationally known mass toxic tort law firm of Levy Phillips and Konigsberg has recently made this announcement.

This New York Supreme Court, Appellate Division, First, upheld the July 2003 jury verdict in favor of, Angel Gomez, who died following the trial, and the late Daniel Tucker. Both men worked with and around asbestos-containing welding rods. The jury awarded Gomez a total of approximately $3.19 million against Lincoln Electric Company. Jury however, reduced 25 percent of the compensation percent since Gomez was a cigarette smoker. Tucker's estate was awarded a total of approximately $3.5 million split between Lincoln and Hobart Brothers Company.

The welding rods at issue in the Gomez and Tucker cases continue to be a top-selling, all-purpose welding rod. Up to the early part of 1980s, these rods were coated with a mixture containing 5% to 15% asbestos, according to trial testimony.

What are the risk factors for mesothelioma?

Working with asbestos is the major risk factor for mesothelioma. A history of asbestos exposure at work is reported in about 70 percent to 80 percent of all cases. However, mesothelioma has been reported in some individuals without any known exposure to asbestos. History of exposure to various other chemicals have been found in some of these patients, but majority of these patients have no understandable risk factors for mesothelioma.

Asbestos is the name of a group of minerals that occur naturally as masses of strong, flexible fibers that can be separated into thin threads and woven. Asbestos has been widely used in many industrial products, including cement, brake linings, roof shingles, flooring products, textiles, and insulation. If tiny asbestos particles float in the air, especially during the manufacturing process, they may be inhaled or swallowed, and can cause serious health problems. In addition to mesothelioma, exposure to asbestos increases the risk of lung cancer, asbestosis (a non-cancerous, chronic lung ailment), and other cancers, such as those of the larynx and kidney.

Smoking does not appear to increase the risk of mesothelioma. However, the combination of smoking and asbestos exposure significantly increases a person's risk of developing lung cancer and cancers of many other areas of the body including the air passage areas.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Targeting Mesothelioma

There is exciting news for patients with mesothelioma in the making. Two pharmaceutical companies have started a clinical phase II clinical trial to test the efficacy and activity of a new drug in mesothelioma. This new drug is named as PXD101. This is a small molecule histone deacetylase inhibitor.

National Cancer Institute is sponsoring the current clinical trial with CuraGen. Those who are having a diagnosis of mesothelioma, which is not removable by surgery and who have failed at least one line of chemotherapy are eligible for the clinical trial. The drug PXD101 is given by intravenous infusion once every three weeks.

The researchers are trying to determine if the drug PXD101 has any significant activity on mesothelioma in terms of clinical response. The study is also aimed at determining the safety of the drug and time to treatment failure. The study would also look for any survival advantage resulting from the use of the drug.

Researchers are planning to enroll a total of 37 patients at different sites across the United States.

Histone deacetylase inhibitors have the ability to down-regulate genes such as BCL-XL and VEGF and up-regulate cell-cycle regulating genes, including p21. Researchers say that they are excited to begin the trial and would evaluate PXD101 as a potential treatment for mesothelioma.

Sadly, there are no proven therapies available for patients who have progressed on the first line chemotherapy. PXD101 is expected to take this vacant position in the treatment algorithm.

Links Between Taconite And Mesothelioma

The Minnesota Department of Health is launching two major studies to answer long-simmering questions about taconite and human health.

The agency says men in northeastern Minnesota have twice the expected rate of a rare form of cancer called mesothelioma.

It's caused by asbestos, but the Health Department wants to find out whether it can also be caused by fibers in the taconite on the Iron Range.

Duluth, Minn. - Mining, and processing taconite, are dirty, dusty jobs. It's hard to avoid breathing the dust from the taconite, which is crushed to the consistency of talcum powder. And asbestos is still used in some older furnaces and other equipment.

Jim Kelly retired three years ago from the Northshore mine at Silver Bay. He has a spot on one lung that's probably a precursor to asbestosis. It's a disease that causes shortness of breath and chronic coughing, and indicates an increased risk of lung cancer.

But he's not about to blame taconite for that. He worked in other industries, and was exposed to asbestos on several jobs. He's heard claims about the dangers of taconite for 30 years, and he doesn't think they're based on much.

"It appears to me that the scientific community and the medical community cannot come to agreement on what is the specific hazard here," he says. "At least I have to date never heard anything specific."

Now the Minnesota Department of Health is going to try to find the answers.

Carbon Nanotubes Could Have Asbestos-Like Health Complications

A recent laboratory study has shed new light on the possibility of a nexus between carbon nanotube exposure and the asbestos-like health effects.

Carbon nanotubes are molecular-level structures that are now being used in thousands of products from tennis rackets and hair dryers to computer chips and electronics. They are renowned for their unparalleled strength and remarkably low mass, and were seen by a number of as the next frontier of product durability.

The study, which involved laboratory mice, indicated that upon introduction into the lower abdomen, nanotubes had virtually identical effects as asbestos fibers. When inhaled or ingested, asbestos fibers will become lodged in the pleural lining of the body's internal organs.

Over time, these fibers cause a sustained inflammation of the internal tissue. This inflammation is usually linked to the beginning stages of asbestosis and mesothelioma, a rare form of cancer now only attributed to asbestos exposure.

Like asbestos fibers, nanotubes are extremely durable and cannot be broken down or expelled by natural body function.

While there is no immediate reason for concern, (most nanotubes are securely adhered within structural compounds) there is certainly justification for further research. Those who may potentially be endangered are those who work in the manufacture of these products as well as those who encounter damaged products.

Incredible Story Of Paul Kraus

What would be more inspiring for mesothelioma patients than listening to the longest mesothelioma survivor in the world? Do you know Paul Kraus? He is the inspiration behind a number of patients with the diagnosis of one of the deadliest forms of cancer called mesothelioma. I have been personally moved by his story.

It was in one those days in June 1997, Paul Kraus was diagnosed with mesothelioma. That has changed his world forever. The cancer was so widespread that he was told there was little hope and that he should go home and get his affairs in order. Fearful and depressed, but not ready to give up, he researched various therapy options. Unlike a number of Paul was not willing to give an unconditional surrender to the one of the most devastating forms of cancer. With the help of his doctors and family, Paul Kraus created his own remarkable path to healing. Today, over nine years later, he continues to enjoy a good quality of life.

"Dr. Andrew Weil wrote that any illness can be conquered through radical lifestyle change because our bodies are made with powerful self-healing capacities. It was hard to make such radical changes, but I was determined to see them through," Paul Kraus said.

During this teleconference, mesothelioma patients and their loved ones can listen to Mr. Kraus summarize his knowledge and insight into this disease. He will discuss how he handled his diagnosis, what he learned about the cancer, and the steps he took to heal his mesothelioma. Subjects include: chemotherapy, surgery, holistic approaches, integrative therapies, vitamins and other supplements, traditional Chinese medicine, mind-body medicine, doctor-patient relationships, and more. Participants can also ask questions of Mr. Kraus and share information and knowledge with each other.