Posts Tagged ‘psychosocial’

MARF announces Mesothelioma Symposium

29 May 2008 by under Events, Organizations

The Applied Research Foundation (MARF) will hold its International Symposium on Malignant Mesothelioma 2008 in Washington, D.C., June 26-28. The annual event highlights the latest advances in research and treatment for patients and caregivers, offers psychosocial support to them as well as those who have lost someone to the disease, and provides significant advocacy and volunteer opportunities for those who are intent on eradicating mesothelioma.

According to Rob Grayson, director of marketing for the Meso Foundation, the event actually started as a purely scientific event, geared toward researchers and scientists, with technical presentations. However, at the time, there were no informational or educational events like it, and they found that patients, families and caregivers wanted to attend.

“Initially, these people would come and sit in on these high-level presentations by scientists, with very technical presentations. We saw the interest and our meeting has now evolved into more of a patient meeting, the scientists speak in more layman’s terms, and we’ve added programs to reach out to people who are also interested in the community of support and the activism that takes place,” Grayson said.

The advocacy element is a new piece of the symposium, added last year when the meeting coincided with debate in the Senate on the Ban Asbestos in America Act, S. 742, sponsored by Senator Patty Murray (D-WA).

“The day we lobbied, they took an administrative vote, and it passed in the Senate. So we’re going back to Washington this year,” Grayson said.

Advocacy efforts this year will include a rallying cry to the House of Representatives to move quickly to pass the legislation in the House, which bans asbestos and provides research funding for mesothelioma. Last week, the Foundation issued an action alert in support of The Bruce Vento Ban and Prevent Act of 2007 (H.R. 3339), the companion to the Senate bill. The bill includes $10 million for mesothelioma research.

“Normally we’d hold the Symposium in a different city each year, but it’s almost the same timing as last year, with the bill pending, this time in the House, so we’re back to Washington,” Grayson explained.

Those attending the Symposium can register to participate in the advocacy efforts, and the Meso Foundation will arrange for them to meet personally with their congressional delegate, and will provide a training session to help advocates prepare for the meeting.

In addition to lobbying for passage of the House bill, Symposium advocates will request that the Senate’s Defense Appropriations Subcommittee maintain, for the second year, mesothelioma’s eligibility to compete for medical research funding from the . In 2007, the DoD appropriated $50 million and included mesothelioma as a research priority for its Peer Reviewed Medical Research Program, effective in the 2008 budget. The Meso Foundation is working for continuing and increasing funds for research in the 2009 defense appropriations bill.

“There currently is no ban on asbestos, so companies can use it however they see fit. We’ve pretty much stopped mining here, but asbestos is still used in about 3,000 products that you could go out and buy right now. Even if we banned asbestos tomorrow, it probably won’t change the rate of sickness for the next 50 years, due to the latency period of asbestos. That’s why the funding for research is so important,” Grayson says. “Advocacy and the call for a ban on asbestos raises awareness, and raises money for research, which is what we need to deal with the illness itself,” he said.

In addition to advocacy, the Symposium again will feature an educational program, with sessions covering topics including Peritoneal Mesothelioma, Pleural Meso Surgical Options, Emerging Therapies, Optimizing Patient Care, and Scientific Advances in Meso Research. Other educational programs will provide instruction on outreach topics including volunteerism, fundraising, peer support and advocacy, to help those who want to make a difference learn how to be most effective.

A Gala Dinner will honor those people living with meso, and recognize outstanding volunteers and advocates for their hard work and dedication to raising awareness. The dinner will feature a unique guest speaker – Seventh grader Lexi Miletto, the granddaughter of Joseph Miletto, who died in 2005 of peritoneal mesothelioma.

Scholarships for Symposium registration fees, as well as for transportation and accommodations, are still available for patients, family members and caregivers who would like to attend. Contact the Meso Foundation at www.curemeso.org or call 805-563-8400 for details.

The Mesothelioma Foundation was started in 1999, by attorney Roger Worthington. Unfortunately, Grayson says, there was an initial stigma because of his association, with people suspicious the Foundation was attempting to gather clients for his firm, so he removed himself from the Board of Directors and the Foundation was re-established as a non-profit, 501(c)3 organization. Today, with 8 staff members, the organization raises $2.5 million annually and funds more than $1 million in research projects.

“Currently, most of our funding goes to seed money to help researchers who have good ideas for treatment to validate their work, and take it to the NIH to get additional funding for the next step of the research,” Grayson explained. “We hope very soon that we’ll be able to fund clinical trials.”


The mental toll of mesothelioma

14 Apr 2008 by under Research/Treatment

The physical result of mesothelioma and asbestos disease are often all-too evident. People wracked with pain, coughing, unable to catch their breath. But what about the mental toll of this disease?

Perhaps one of the most interesting presentations at the recent Asbestos Awareness Day Conference in , at least to me, was that of , PhD, a senior scientist in Communication and Behavioral Oncology for the Karmanos Cancer Institute and Associate Professor of Family Medicine at Wayne State University.

Dr. Cline recently conducted a community-based focus group investigation in Libby, Montana, on psychosocial issues related to vermiculite/asbestos exposure. She also is currently leading a related population-based survey investigating that community.

She describes asbestos related disease as a “slow-motion technological disaster,” in which community and social responses have a great deal to do with how people fare, mentally and socially.

The basic definition of a technological disaster is a “catastrophic event caused by humans that results in the toxic contamination of the environment.” This includes asbestos contamination, as in Libby, resulting from decades of vermiculite mining, hence “slow moving,” as well as things like oil spills, which can devastate an area fairly quickly.

Libby is the epicenter of what Dr. Cline calls “the worst environmental disaster in the United States,” with multiple generations affected. She examined in particular how stigma associated with asbestos disease can have an impact on what people do.

Dr. Cline said there are two possible responses to technological disaster – the emergence of an altruistic community, or a community in conflict. The latter, she said, is common where there is human culpability, and it was the result in Libby.

The Libby study, conducted in 2006, included focus groups and some individual interviews with adults who lived and worked in the Libby area for at least the past five years. Interview subjects included people with connections to the mine, people with no connections to the mine, people affected by asbestos disease personally, people with family affected by the disease, and people with no disease in family or person.

She found that people fell into three categories – early believers, those who immediately understood the connection of vermiculite to what was happening to the town; late believers, those who initially resisted the idea that the mine made people sick; and those in denial or conflicted, who still did not or would not believe the mine was responsible.

Dr. Cline found that there was a great deal of stigma attached to asbestos-related disease, which created a barrier to social support. People with mesothelioma or other asbestos-related diseases were often afraid to talk about it, she said, even to close friends.

She said that the stigma came from a variety of sources. Conflicts included concerns about the economic disaster that the loss of the mine signified for the town, for which it was the main industry and source of jobs and security. People feared that if the mine were blamed for illness and deaths in the community there would be a decline in property values, loss of jobs, and a lost way of life.

As a part or a result of that, conflict also grew from a concern about what was the truth. There was a suspicion among neighbors that people claiming illnesses were phony, money-grubbing, greedy or opportunistic, making up illnesses to get a part of a financial settlement from the mining company.

People suffering from asbestos disease personally or within their family were afraid to talk about it out of fear that they would be ostracized and shunned by their neighbors and their community.

Dr. Cline told the story of two women, best friends for years, who bumped into each other in the Center for Asbestos Related Disease, which had been established in Libby to test, diagnose and treat patients. “What are you doing here?” one whispered. “I have the asbestos,” the other whispered back. “Me too,” came the whispered response. Best friends, but afraid at the core to admit to having asbestos disease.

On top of this, people who are ill or whose family members are ill fear the health and medical disaster itself, which was already upon them. They said they felt a lack of hope for survival, not just for themselves or their immediate family, but for generations.

Some of those in denial, or conflicted, still refuse to be tested for asbestos disease. They don’t want to know, Dr. Cline says, or they do not believe the mine could harm them.

There appears to be one universal in Libby.

“Across the groups, people felt like the community as a whole had been stigmatized, that everyone ‘knew about Libby’ and it had been given a bad reputation,” Dr. Cline said.

In addition to the physical toll, the mental toll of asbestos disease in Libby has been incalculable, she said.