Sunday, July 19, 2009

Mesothelioma Takes the Life of Michigan Teacher

Joe Hoffer of Holland, Michigan passed away after battling mesothelioma. He was 61. Hoffer passed away on Monday, and his passing is being mourned by members of the educational community, former students, and his family. He is survived by his wife, Marilyn Lugers Hoffer; three children, Jennifer, Katie, and Michael, and three grandchildren. Hoffer was a former board president for Holland Public Schools and the Ottawa Area Intermediate School District.

Hoffer is remembered as an educator who was passionate about helping students who struggled in school. OAISD Superintendent Karen McPhee remembers: "Joe always demonstrated a special place in his heart for students who struggled and students who needed some alternatives to how they were going to find success," McPhee said. "Joe was one of the good guys who cared deeply about people, personally and professionally. His soft spot was for students who, for whatever reason, needed non-traditional ways to earn a diploma, which he believed were so important."

According to school board member Kevin Clark, Hoffer has left behind a legacy. "On the board, he was kind of a story teller, and it was a great style," Clark said. "He was a good leader. He cared deeply for the school district and kids. It doesn't get any better than that. His fingerprints are still all over Holland Public Schools."

Hoffer blamed his mesothelioma on exposure to asbestos. Hoffer believed he had been exposed to asbestos during a summer job in a furnace factory while he was still in college. Mesothelioma has a latency period of several decades, meaning that it the symptoms of mesothelioma may not develop until half a lifetime has passed since the patient's initial exposure to asbestos.

Memorial donations can be made to International Mesothelioma Program, 75 Francis St., Boston, MA, 02115.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

5 Questions About Mesothelioma Answered

Mesothelioma is a rare cancer that often forms as the result of asbestos exposure over an extended period of time.

It is important to be informed about mesothelioma to prevent this oftentimes fatal cancer from affecting you and your loved ones.

The following 5 questions are ones that everyone should ask in regards to mesothelioma, and answers that are beneficial to read.

What is Mesothelium?

The mesothelium is the membrane that covers the internal organs of the body and protects them from becoming harmed in any way.

The mesothelium contains two layers; the first one surrounds the organ while the other forms a sac around it. A fluid is released by the mesothelium between the layers, which enables organs, like the heart and lungs, to move easily around nearby structures in the body.

What Risks are Associated with Mesothelioma?

About 70 to 80 percent of mesothelioma cases are due to the exposure of asbestos in humans.

Asbestos is a group of minerals that forms into fibers and is often found in industrial products like cement, brake linings, flooring products and insulation.

Inhaling or swallowing asbestos particles, which typically float in the air, can increase lung cancer risks and other cancers, as well as be detrimental to the mesothelioma.

The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration, (OSHA), has set limits for asbestos in the workplace because of its severe health risks.

What are Symptoms of Mesothelioma?

Mesothelioma can oftentimes not develop until 30 to 50 years after exposure but there are some obvious signs that those at risk should be aware of, including:
· Shortness of breath and chest pain
· Weight loss
· Abdominal pain
· Fever
· Trouble swallowing and swelling around the neck

How is Mesothelioma Treated?

Depending on the stage of the cancer and area in which its located, different treatments can be initiated, such as:
· Surgery- Doctors can remove the part of the lining in the chest or abdomen that is effected by the cancerous cells
· Radiation Therapy- High-energy rays can kill cancer and shrink any tumors that have formed
· Chemotherapy- This treatment can help to kill and reduce the amount of cancerous cells in the body

Are There New Treatments to Cure Mesothelioma Being Studied?

Although Mesothelioma is difficult to control, the National Cancer Institute, (NC), is constantly holding clinical trials that help in designing new treatments and are beneficial to research.

Participation in these trials is important for patients suffering from this unique cancer.

FDA Approves Alimta for Treatment of Lung Cancer

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has announced that the drug Alimta® (also known as pemetrexed) has been approved for preventing the progression of certain types of advanced or metastatic lung cancer, or nonsquamous, non-small cell lung cancer. Alimta® is newly-approved for lung cancer patients who have tumors that have been shrunken, or whose cancer has stabilized after treatments of chemotherapy.

Alimta® was originally approved by the FDA in 2004 for the treatment of mesothelioma, a rare form of cancer that is linked almost exclusively to exposure to asbestos. Asbestos fibers, once inhaled, become permanently embedded and are impossible to remove. Asbestos inhalation is linked to mesothelioma, COPD, asbestosis, and lung cancer.

Alimta® works by limiting the ability of tumors to absorb the B-vitamin folate, which the tumor needs to survive. Alimta® is also approved for use as an initial therapy for advanced non-small cell lung cancer. The FDA warns that the drug does have some possible side effects, which include blood cell damage, fatigue, nausea, loss of appetite, extremity numbness, and rashes. The drug is manufactured by the Indianapolis-based pharmaceutical giant Eli Lilly & Co.

Non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) is the most common type of lung cancer. Subtypes of NSCLC include adenocarcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma, and large cell carcinoma. Other treatment options include chemotherapy. Alimta® is the first drug to be approved as maintenance therapy for advanced NSCLC.

A number of leading oncologists, including Dr. David Sugarbaker of Brigham and Women's Hospital in Massachusetts, often administer a combination of Alimta® and a second cancer-fighting drug know as Cisplatin when treating patients with mesothelioma.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Mesothelioma community rallies to raise awareness

More than 230 people gathered in Washington, D.C., last week to attend the 6th Annual International Symposium on Malignant Mesothelioma, presented by the Mesothelioma Applied Research Foundation. This was the largest attendance to date for the event, and 170 of that number also participated in Advocacy Day events, visiting their Congressional delegates on Capitol Hill.

This annual symposium is “for everybody” affected by mesothelioma. This includes patients, caregivers and family members, and those who have lost a loved one to mesothelioma, as well as advocates and scientific and medical experts. The event is designed to provide education about new research and treatment, to assist meso patients and their families and loved ones with coping skills and a network of support, and provide advocates with the tools to help make an impact in the effort to raise awareness about mesothelioma and the dangers of asbestos exposure, and to raise funds for research.

“I don’t think any community knows more about holding onto hope in the midst of difficult circumstances than mesothelioma patients and their families, ” said MARF executive director Chris Hahn. “But there is still a perception of mesothelioma as an orphan disease. It is overlooked, by the government, by the average person, despite the huge presence of asbestos in our society,” he said.

Mesothelioma is a deadly cancer that affects the lining of the chest wall or, more rarely, the abdomen, and, in very rare instances, the heart. It is caused by exposure to asbestos, and may have a latency period of up to 40 years or more from the time of exposure until symptoms manifest. It is difficult to diagnose, and often is misdiagnosed until too late for effective treatment. Even if diagnosed early, treatment is often difficult, and there is currently no known cure.

The Mesothelioma Applied Reserach Foundation is the largest independent program for mesothelioma reserach and support in the world. It operates a competitive grant program that awards up to 10 grants, or $10 million, each year to research projects most likely to lead to better treatment.

The Foundation is a non-profit organization whose main mission is dedicated to “eradicating the life-ending and vicious effects of mesothelioma.”

MARF needs funding. This is the only organization dedicated to the research and treatment of mesothelioma, but it is facing the same struggles that many other charitable foundations are facing in this tough economy - donations are down, funding is stretched thin. The foundation received 59 grant applications in 2008 - programs that WANT to explore and investigate mesothelioma in search of earlier diagnosis, better treatment methods and, ultimately a cure. But the Foundation was only able to fund five new programs in 2008.

It is estimated that 3,300 new cases of mesothelioma will be diagnosed each year.

Mesothelioma, once considered an industrial disease affecting primarily older men, is being diagnosed in younger and younger people. In 2008, a 3-year-old girl was diagnosed with mesothelioma. Mesothelioma is everybody’s problem. We cannot afford NOT to support mesothelioma research.

For more information about the Mesothelioma Applied Research Foundation and how to make a donation, visit them online.

The Foundation also needs volunteers. There are a number of ways you can help, from advocacy efforts to planning a fund-raising event, to simply helping put out the word about mesothelioma and the effects of asbestos exposure. You can find that information on their web site, too.

This was my first experience at the Symposium, and it was emotionally and intellectually exhausting, and inspiring, and motivating. I met some amazing people who, despite being personally devestated by mesothelioma, are determined to keep fighting. I’m amazed by this great group of folks.

I plan to add many more stories from information presented at the conference, and from the people I met there, in the next several days, so please check back! It’s too much to tell in one post!

Asking for support of mesothelioma funding

Today was busy with meetings at Capitol Hill, asking legislators to support a total ban of asbestos in the United States, funding for mesothelioma research, and that they designate September 26 as Mesothelioma Awareness Day.

The day began with a briefing from Chris Hahn, the executive director of the Mesothelioma Applied Research Foundation (MARF), with latest numbers about federal funding for meso research (WAY below every other cancer) and information about goals for new legislation. A bill to ban asbestos and fund meso research has been before the Senate for the past SEVEN YEARS. In 2008, S774, more commonly known as the Bruce Vento Ban Asbestos and Prevent Mesothelioma Act, passed the Senate, and in 2008 its companion, HR3339/6903, made it to committee in the House of Representatives, but never made it to the floor. It died in committee when the session ended and we now have to start all over.

Beginning at 11 a.m., I met with aides from Congressman Bobby Bright’s office, as well as the offices of Senators Richard Shelby and Jeff Sessions. I was disappointed that I was unable to meet with any of the legislators personally, but two of the aides were particularly enthusiastic about our efforts, and the third was amenable, so I have high hopes. Now I will simply begin to pester people until we finally see some legislation! I left copies of our petition in support of these efforts with each of the Congressional offices, so I hope they will listen to our voices!

Tomorrow the sixth annual International Symposium on Malignant Mesothelioma will address the latest topics in mesothelioma research and treatment. 170 people attended the Advocacy Day today, and 230 people will attend the conference tomorrow and Saturday, the largest number yet.

Chris Hahn told us, “The way that we’re going to cure this disease is through community. On Advocacy Day, each person’s voice makes a real difference, and each of you speak for hundreds who could not be here.”

I hope our legislature is listening.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Jury Finds Chrysotile Asbestos Causes Rare Peritoneal Mesothelioma

A jury awarded over $1.9 million to a 71-year-old retired sheet metal worker, Genaro Garcia, who developed peritoneal mesothelioma from his prior on-the-job exposure to asbestos (Genaro Garcia and Dalia Garcia v. Duro Dyne Corporation, SF Superior Court, #418098). Peritoneal mesothelioma is an aggressive form of cancer that first attacks the membranes lining the stomach. This fatal disease is almost always caused by asbestos exposure.

The defendant, Duro Dyne Corporation, is a former manufacturer and distributor of asbestos-containing flex HVAC duct connectors and duct sealer used for sheet metal duct connections. Mr. Garcia worked with Duro Dyne Corporation's asbestos-containing sheet metal products throughout his 48-year career, but was never advised to wear any form of respiratory protection. Experts testified that he was exposed to hazardous levels of asbestos, and that each exposure was a substantial factor that contributed to his risk of developing an asbestos-related disease.

Mr. Garcia learned that he had peritoneal mesothelioma in late 2002. After over two years of treatment with chemotherapy, including Alimta®, his cancer is currently in a temporary state of remission. Mr. Garcia traveled with his wife by car from Whittier, California, to testify at the San Francisco trial. He was unable to travel by plane due to the severe side effects of his chemotherapy regime.

The verdict against Duro Dyne Corporation consisted of $325,369 for past and future medical expenses, $530,250 for lost earning capacity, and $1.05 million in non-economic damages. Non-economic damages included $300,000 to Mrs. Garcia for loss of consortium.

"We are grateful that the jury rejected the defense claims that chrysotile asbestos does not cause all mesothelioma, including peritoneal, and that Mr. Garcia is somehow cured of this terrible and entirely preventable disease. Only in a courtroom would you hear such things," said Mr. Garcia's attorney, Gilbert Purcell, after the verdict.

Gilbert Purcell and Crystal Howard of Brayton Purcell in Novato, California, represented plaintiffs Genaro and Delia Garcia at trial. Duro Dyne Corporation was represented at trial by James Sinunu and Thomas Trapani of Adams Nye Sinunu Bruni Becht LLP of San Francisco, CA.

About Brayton Purcell
For over 20 years, Brayton Purcell has helped clients protect their legal rights in the face of devastating losses such as illness, injuries, and harm to family members. The law firm enjoys a national reputation for the high quality of its personal injury and product liability work, particularly in the area of mesothelioma and other asbestos-related cancers. For more information, call 415-898-1555 or visit our firm web site at For mesothelioma legal and medical news as well as information about mesothelioma diagnosis and treatment, see our specialty web site, Mesothelioma Network, at

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Skydive Raised Funds for Mesothelioma Research

A pair of siblings from the UK has organized a charity skydiving event in memory of their father, who passed away from mesothelioma. Bill Rawlinson died in October of 2007 after a struggle with pleural mesothelioma, caused by exposure to asbestos. He was 64. Now his children Paul and Claire have honored his memory by skydiving to raise money for the Mick Knighton Mesothelioma research fund.

The Mick Knighton Mesothelioma research fund is an organization dedicated to raising money for mesothelioma research. The organization also hopes to raise awareness about the rare cancer, and provides support to sufferers and their families. Mesothelioma is a cancer that aggressively attacks the body. It is so aggressive that it is not uncommon for sufferers to die mere months after being diagnosed. Asbestos exposure is the most common cause of mesothelioma, and can also cause lung cancer and asbestosis.

In the UK, the rates of mesothelioma cancer are a bit higher than here in the US, where approximately 2,500 individuals are diagnosed with the disease annually.

According to Paul, he did not come up with the idea. "It was my sister's idea to do a skydive...She's not really one to take part in extreme sports, but she wanted to do something out of the ordinary to show how committed we are." The siblings completed their dive on June 20th. Paul completed a solo jump with a static line parachute from 3,500 feet in the air. His sister Claire took on a tandem jump from a height of 14,000 feet. The brother and sister team hope to raise 2,000 (about $3,300 in US currency).

Mesothelioma activists from around the world can support Paul and Claire's efforts. Donations for the Mick Knighton Mesothelioma research fund in memory of Bill Rawlinson can still be made online by visiting

In the US, a number of oncologists who specialize in studying and treating mesothelioma cancer, including Stephen Yang, MD of the Johns Hopkins Division of Thoracic Surgery continue to push for a cure for this fatal disease.