Posts Tagged ‘hope’

Asbestos Awareness Conference set for March 28

5 Feb 2009 by under Events, News, Organizations

The (ADAO) has announced its Fifth Annual International Asbestos Awareness Conference is set for March 28, 2009, in Manhattan Beach, Calif. The purpose of the event is to educate the public about the dangers of asbestos, ban its use and encourage research efforts to improve treatment options for asbestos diseases like mesothelioma.

The conference will feature prominent physicians, scientists, safety and health directors, as well as survivors, who will present current information about the status of asbestos in the U.S. and worldwide. Discussion will include facts on exposure, asbestos-related diseases and how to prevent them, and where to turn for help.

In addition to the main event on Saturday, there will be an evening reception on Friday, March 27, featuring musician , whose father, legendary singer-songwriter Warren Zevon, died of mesothelioma in 2003; and a Unity and Hope Remembrance Brunch on Sunday, March 29.

Five individuals will be honored for their outstanding work in raising awareness about asbestos exposure: U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer for her work to ban asbestos in the U.S.;  Margaret Seminario, AFL/CIO, for her efforts to unite, educate and empower asbestos victims and workers; Dr. Stephen Levin, MD, for his research into the social and medical impact of asbestos; and Pralhad Malvadkar and Raghunath Manwar for their work with victims of asbestos exposure in India and worldwide.

The conference is presented by ADAO, the Barbara Ann Karmanos Cancer Institute and the International Ban Asbestos Secretariat.

For more information or registration, visit ADAO online.

‘Last Lecture’ professer has passed away

25 Jul 2008 by under News

In the first days of writing this blog, I linked to a very inspirational video by Dr. Randy Pausch, popularly called . Pausch, a 47-year-old Professor of Computer Science, Human-Computer Interaction, and Design at Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) in Pittsburgh, had been diagnosed with terminal pancreatic cancer, and created the lecture to inspire others to make the most of the time they have here on earth.

Based on the idea of “living your childhood dreams,” the lecture is a reflection on what would be most important to a person if they had to choose the last talk of their life – the things they would want to share with others.

Dr. Pausch passed away today, at the age of 47. He is survived by his wife, Jai, and their three children, Dylan, Logan and Chloe; his mother, Virginia Pausch of Columbia, Md.; and a sister, Tamara Mason of Lynchburg, Va.

Please take the time to watch this video. I hope that it inspires you to live your dreams.

Clinical trial for mesothelioma at NY hospital

8 Jul 2008 by under News, Research/Treatment

A New York medical center specializing in the treatment of mesothelioma has announced a new clinical trial accepting patients. The Mesothelioma Center within the Herbert Irving Comprehensive Cancer Center at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital and Columbia University Medical Center is launching a program of targeted radiation and chemotherapy protocol for pleural mesothelioma, a cancer of the lung’s lining that is almost always caused by previous exposure to asbestos.

It is hoped the new treatment will replace or delay the need for the standard treatment in these cases, a pleural pneumonectomy, which involves removal of the lung and which can be extremely debilitating to patients.

According to a press release from the medical center, Dr. Robert Taub, the study’s principal investigator, director of the Mesothelioma Center at NewYork-Presbyterian/Columbia and professor of clinical medicine at Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons, says, “Current surgical and chemotherapy treatments of patients with malignant pleural mesothelioma are unsatisfactory, and have not been shown to significantly prolong survival. In this study, we will investigate whether a combination of chemotherapy and radiation targeted directly at the lung’s lining can improve outcomes while avoiding surgery. In addition, this approach has shown to have minimal toxic side effects compared to systemic chemotherapy.”

The Mesothelioma Center is the only one nationwide that is offering this experimental therapy to treat pleural mesothelioma.

The study is being conducted at the Mesothelioma Center within the Herbert Irving Comprehensive Cancer Center at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital and Columbia University Medical Center. According to the release, participating patients will receive several rounds of targeted chemotherapy using the drugs cisplatin and doxorubicin via surgically implanted catheters. Some patients will be randomly selected to receive additional systemic (intravenous) chemotherapy using the drugs cisplatin and pemetrexed. All patients will receive targeted radiotherapy using the P-32 radioisotope.

Patients may elect to receive additional surgical treatment, including removal of the affected lung lining or lung. Subsequently, patients will be offered outpatient systemic chemotherapy with cisplatin and pemetrexed.

For more information, visit

Blog asks, ‘Finish this Sentence: My cancer…’

1 Jul 2008 by under News, People

There is an absolutely amazing blog over at NPR (National Public Radio), written by Leroy Sievers. A journalist for more than 25 years, Leroy has worked at CBS News and , where he was the executive producer at . Two years ago, he was diagnosed with a brain tumor. Doctors estimated he had between 3 and 6 months to live. He began the NPR blog, called My Cancer, accompanied by a weekly podcast and monthly broadcast on Morning Edition, to talk about cancer.

During those two years, Leroy battled his brain tumor, and then cancer that attacked his spine. Now, his latest scan shows his cancer has all but taken over his body, affecting his brain, liver, lungs and bones. He’s managing his pain, realizing his time is short.

Leroy never really expected to still be writing the blog two years after his initial diagnosis, and yet the time is still too short. In a recent post, he wonders if there is a lesson in this unique struggle. He asks, “Have I missed something? A lesson that the disease was trying to pass on?”

In the years that he’s been writing the blog, Leroy has inspired so many people who are waging their own battles with cancer – all types of cancer. And so he posed this question to them. He asked them to “Finish this sentence: My Cancer….”

The results are emotional – they span anger, despair, heartbreak, peace, humor, strength – the tumble of feelings experienced by cancer patients and their caregivers, family members and loved ones.

Take a look. Add your thoughts about your own struggles with mesothelioma, as a patient or someone who loves another afflicted with this terrible illness.

And send a little prayer for Leroy as he faces what may be the final steps on this long and difficult journey. Thank you, Leroy, for sharing of yourself so honestly, and through your experiences providing comfort and hope and laughter, and an assurance that it’s ok to sometimes be weak, or afraid, or angry, or despairing, to so many people.

$8 million asbestos study in Libby

19 Jun 2008 by under News, Research/Treatment

After years of ignoring the dangers of asbestos, and the resulting nationwide epidemic of asbestos disease, including mesothelioma, there is a renewed interest in studying this deadly material. This week, the Billings Gazette announced the federal government will fund an $8 million study to understand the health effects of low-level exposure to asbestos. The study will be based in Libby, Montana, where more than 200 people have died to date as a result of asbestos mining operations in the town, and hundreds more people suffer from asbestos related diseases.

The Libby program, dubbed the Libby Amphibole Health Risk Initiative, is funded by the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Health and Human Services’ Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry. The study is expected to span 5 years with a goal of expanding knowledge about the potential and real health issues of asbestos exposure.

Libby already has proved a tragically rich source of knowledge about long-term exposure to high levels of asbestos, as the ’s initial examination and cleanup of the town focused on miners with direct exposure to the substance in their jobs, as well as people who handled asbestos mineral and were exposed to asbestos dust secondarily on a daily basis.

But, the Gazette reports, too little is know about exposure to lower levels of asbestos. EPA officials hope that results of the study will benefit not only the residents of Libby, but people throughout the country.

In April, the Minnesota state legislature approved $4.9 million for its own five-year study, to be conducted under the direction of the University of Minnesota, in connection with unusually high levels of mesothelioma affecting Iron Range mine workers. A large question in the area is whether dust from the taconite mined there – a fibrous mineral similar to asbestos – could also cause mesothelioma.

A key part of the Minnesota research will be an examination of previous asbestos exposure among mine workers, which will expand the base of knowledge about the affect of asbestos on health, in addition to the new studies about the effect of taconite.

According to the Billings Gazette, among tests to be included in the Libby study are a comparison of film and digital chest X-rays to determine which is best for assessing the lungs, a comparison of the health of people exposed to Libby asbestos in childhood versus people who weren’t, an expanded evaluation of Libby residents who were exposed to asbestos, an assessment of whether the health problems related to asbestos exposure extend beyond lung disease.

Researchers in Libby also hope to make improvements to public health tracking systems and patient health record databases, to better link exposure information to health conditions, the Gazette reports.

Gayla Benefield, perhaps one of the best-known residents of Libby for her early outcry about the health effects of asbestos on the people in her town, says she is happy to see an emphasis on research.

She was a charter member of the board of directors of the Center for Asbestos Related Disease (CARD), a not-for-profit clinic governed by a volunteer community board and devoted to healthcare, outreach, and research to benefit all people impacted by exposure to Libby amphibole asbestos. She only recently retired from her position with that organization.

“This is something I’ve wanted from the onset – more study and more research,” she says. “I’ve been especially interested in how much or how little of the (asbestos) fiber can cause meso, and I’ve been really concerned about the schools having been contaminated.”

The key, Benefield says, is to detect mesothelioma at its earliest stage, when there is still time for treatment to prolong life. When people around her in Libby began being diagnosed, she says, their mesothelioma was so advanced that many died within days of the diagnosis.

“We all – everyone in Libby – live under the threat of developing mesothelioma,” she says. “They’re never going to get all that (asbestos) fiber out of Libby, or anywhere for that matter, homes with asbestos insulation, so the research is the big thing. Any and all research having to do with mesothelioma is fantastic. A dream come true.”

Why haven’t we won the war?

18 Jun 2008 by under Events, News, Research/Treatment

Earlier this month, about 33,000 medical professionals gathered for the annual meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology. The event is the world’s largest gathering of cancer specialists, and includes among its programs updates about various cancer treatments, as well as an opportunity for physicians to visit vendors from drug companies to learn about new products.

A special focus of this year’s conference was lung cancer, which is the leading cause of cancer deaths in the United States. Mesothelioma affects the lining of the lungs, and may also affect the abdomen or the pericardium (the sac around the heart).

There was a great deal of hope for a new drug, Erbitux, which doctors hoped would prove to have significant results in prolonging survival for lung cancer patients (it didn’t), as well as review of a currently popular lung cancer drug, Avastin, which in its Phase III trial was shown to help keep the disease from progressing.

But among the reports of facts and figures and products and treatments, was a report by Robert Bazell at Why, he wondered, are we not further along in the War on Cancer, which was declared as a national health priority in 1971, when President Richard Nixon signed the National Cancer Act.

The Act, Bazell points out, created the National Cancer Institute as a separate entity from the National Institutes of Health, with a dedicated budget for curing cancer. The NCI started with $230 million per year, and now has a budget of $5 billion.

Certainly, progress has been made, and there have been steady declines in breast, colon and prostate cancers, most due to better methods for early detection, Bazell points out. But, overall, he says, the toll from cancer has declined only 5 percent between 1950 and 2005. FIVE percent!

What are the challenges? Why are we not winning this war?

Certainly, the nature of cancer itself has something to do with it – there are more than 200 diseases that fit into the definition of “cancer,” uncontrolled cell growth, he points out. And, even though funding has increased, if you adjust that $5 billion budget for inflation, spending on cancer research has actually been falling in recent years, he says.

But I was intrigued by his most compelling argument, which seems so simple. He notes that “it would be very useful to have a discussion on how much we spend on BASIC RESEARCH and PREVENTION, compared to how much we spend on marginally useful treatments.”

Is it possible that we can no longer see the forest for the trees?

Atkinson conquers U.S. Open course

16 Jun 2008 by under Events, News, People

I hope everyone had the chance to watch John Atkinson play the U.S. Open golf course at Torrey Pines, California, as part of a celebrity foursome with NBC Today Show anchor Matt Lauer, Dallas Cowboy player and entertainer . The event was broadcast on NBC Sports on Sunday, Father’s Day.

I’ve posted about John several times on this site. He was selected by the readers of Golf Digest magazine to participate in this first-ever celebrity foursome event. Diagnosed with Stage IV lung cancer, John used the event as a chance to raise awareness about lung cancer and to inspire those with the diagnosis to keep meeting the challenges of everyday life, and taking advantage of life’s unique opportunities.

This morning, Matt Lauer interviewed John and his brother, Kevin, who caddied for his big brother on the last hole in an emotional show of support. Watch the video at

In addition to this video, the Lung Cancer Alliance has the first part of what will be a multi-part documentary about John’s battle against Lung Cancer up on its site. John is a spokesperson for the organization. Watch the first episode at the LCA web site.

John has made it his mission to raise awareness about lung cancer, with the hopes of increasing funding for research and treatment. His campaign gives hope to everyone who battles lung cancer in its many forms, including those fighting mesothelioma, which affects the lining of the lungs. Thank you, John, for your willingness to go that extra mile!

Quintessence continues with mesothelioma drug

5 Jun 2008 by under News, Research/Treatment

On April 21 I reported that a Madison, Wisconsin-based biotechnology firm, Quintessence Bioscience, was moving forward on a drug similar to Alfacel’s , to treat mesothelioma. The report, from Steve Clark for WTN (Wisconsin Technology Network) News, noted that the company’s QBI-139 is very similar to , but has not been clinically tested yet.

Of course, on Monday this week, it was announced and reported here that Onconase had failed the primary objective of its late-stage trial. This news was particularly disappointing since the drug already has orphan drug status in the U.S., Europe and Australia due to the very high hopes for its success. Despite failing in its primary objective, however, testing did show that the drug is effective in a secondary effect, helping to prolong the life of those treated after standard chemotherapy has failed.

The report of Onconase’s initial failure prompted WTN’s Clark to revisit Quintessence to find out if the Onconase failure would derail the development of their QBI-139. In his new report, Clarks says he found researchers undaunted and pressing forward. He says they hope to move the drug into clinical trials sometime this summer, and they believe the success of Onconase’s secondary role and hopeful FDA approval in that area will help pave the way for general acceptance of RNase cancer therapies.

In his earlier report, Clark pointed out that QBI-139 has several differences from Onconase in the way it is produced, which he believes will make it inherently more effective than Onconase.

He points out that mesothelioma is a particularly difficult cancer to treat, and wonders if the selection of mesothelioma as a research track by Alfacell was made to help fast-track the development of the drug. Perhaps, he wonders, the drug might be more effective on “more common and easier to treat cancers than mesothelioma.”

The pressure to be positive

2 Jun 2008 by under News

There was an absolutely excellent article published in the New York Times over the weekend, written by Jan Hoffman, exploring the notion that people struggling with terminal illness, particularly cancer, like mesothelioma, should always present a brave face, a “fighting spirit.”

The author points out that celebrities like Patrick Swayze, who has pancreatic cancer, and Sen. Ted Kennedy, who has a brain tumor, are shown smiling, waving, even sailing off into the sunset – quite literally in Kennedy’s case – as they assure the public that they’re going to “beat” cancer.

This constant emphasis on maintaining a positive outlook is meant to encourage other cancer patients, to inspire them, to give them hope for the future. But sometimes it can have just the opposite effect, Hoffman says in the article, putting pressure on them to hide their fear, anger, resentment and exhaustion. They feel guilty, like they are letting people down when they show their true feelings.

The author talks to cancer survivors, doctors, social workers and psychologists about this culture of enforced hope. Read the full article, titled “When Thumbs Up Is No Comfort,” and let me know what you think. Has this happened to you? Do you struggle with this issue? When does encouragement cross the line and push you in the opposite direction, leaving you feeling bitter?

Onconase fails in primary late-stage trial

30 May 2008 by under News, Research/Treatment

Alfacell Corp., a biotechnology company that manufactures Onconase, released a disappointing report Wednesday regaring its Onconase product, which was hoped to be a significant treatment for mesothelioma. The drug already has orphan-drug status for the treatment of malignant mesothelioma in the U.S., Europe and Australia.

Results of the company’s late-stage trial of the drug showed that Onconase did not achieve significantly higher survival rates among patients with unresectable malignant mesothelioma when given in combination with doxorubicin, another cancer chemotherapy drug.

According to a report on Pharmaceutical Online, the preliminary results are based on 320 evaluable events that occurred in the clinical trial out of a total of 428 patients randomized. The analysis of the data did not show a statistically significant improvement for evaluable patients receiving Onconase plus doxorubicin. The median survival time (MST) for evaluable patients who received Onconase plus doxorubicin was 11.1 months as compared to 10.7 months for patients who received doxorubicin as a single agent.

However, there is a silver lining to the study. Pharmaceutical Online reports those patients who failed a previous chemotherapy regimen who received Onconase plus doxorubicin experienced a MST of 10.5 months compared with 8.7 months for those patients who received doxorubicin, which is considered a statistically significant result.

Reuters reports as a result of this secondary finding, Alfacell will now submit a marketing application to the Food and Drug Administration for use of the drug on those patients, with hopes to have it approved by the end of the year.