Nearly a quarter of states have asbestos claims transparency laws on the books, and Missouri is poised to raise the number to 13, according to the St. Louis Record. Even if the bill making its way through the General Assembly does not pass this session, it is expected to be reintroduced during the next one. (more…)
Posts Tagged ‘Wisconsin’
Although he died of cancer in 2013 before he could complete his life’s work, researcher Phillip Cook will have an impact on the evaluation of asbestos-like mineral fibers and how they affect the body. Shortly after the scientist, who worked at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for much of his career, passed away, his colleague decided the research must be completed. The results create a way to evaluate which fibrous minerals are more or less toxic. (more…)
The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR) announced Monday that asbestos is present in a rock sample taken from the proposed site of an iron ore mine in Ashland and Iron counties. The asbestoform fibers were found in the mineral grunerite. Asbestos and asbestoform fibers present a danger to public health if they are inhaled or ingested, which may result in the development of mesothelioma. (more…)
Another state is investigating the possible link between minerals mining and mesothelioma. The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR) is trying to determine if asbestos-like fibers could be released from iron ore mining or sampling in the Penokee Range. It involves a naturally occurring mineral called grunerite. Grunerite can appear in a fibrous crystal form. (more…)
On April 21 I reported that a Madison, Wisconsin-based biotechnology firm, Quintessence Bioscience, was moving forward on a drug similar to Alfacel’s Onconase, 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 Onconase, 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.”
Recently, Debi Swagart contacted me to share the heartbreaking story of her father’s death from mesothelioma. Living in a small town in Michigan, Warren Faubert fell ill in December 2001, but was not diagnosed with mesothelioma until May 2002 – much too late for treatment. At the time, she says, not much was known about mesothelioma, even among the small-town physicians who treated him for pneumonia. Here is her story:
Let me tell you a story about my loving Dad. He was my hero, he was my father. In December 2001 he came down with pneumonia and could never get rid of it. He didn’t really think that much about it at the time, and said the doctors were trying many different medicines to help him.
In February 2002 I got a call from my uncle that they figured my Dad had a stroke. My husband and I rushed from Memphis to Escanaba, Michigan. When we got there, what a shock! My dad had been a construction worker all his life, and was muscular and fit, especially in his upper body. He was a short man, about five-foot-five and 185 pounds. When we saw him in February, he weighed only 134 pounds. My husband and I were just shocked by his appearance, how sick he looked.
The doctor walked into the room and told my Dad, “Well, Warren, all the tests show that you did not have a stroke.” But they didn’t offer any answers about what was wrong with him. I thought, “Ok, what is going on?!” We took him home that day and I stayed with him for a week. He felt sure the doctors would help him, so I reluctantly went back home.
After I had been home in Memphis for about a week, a friend of the family called me and said, “Debi, you better get back here. Warren is not good.” I got on a plane immediately.
Dad lived in the upper part of Michigan where there are no major airports, so I flew into Green Bay, Wisconsin, and drove 2 hours to the house. As soon as I walked in, I saw that my Dad had gotten even smaller. He was down to about 110 pounds! His clothes would not fit him – they just fell off his body. I went to the store and ended up getting him a boys’ size 14, which he was able to wear. I couldn’t believe it. How could this happen? What was going on?
The next day I took Dad to the doctor’s office, and they told me he had pneumonia again. I just didn’t believe this, but I wasn’t sure what else to do. Shouldn’t I trust the doctors? But he just kept getting worse. He was wasting away in front of me.
From December 2001 to May 2002 my Dad had infection in his lungs 22 times. He continued to weaken, until we rushed him to the hospital on May 1. He was admitted, but it was a nightmare from that time on.
On May 10, the doctor came in Dad’s room and admitted he had no clue what was going on. I just lost it! I started yelling, “Look, this man is a veteran, and a retired Union man! He has three medical insurance policies. Get someone in here that can help him and can tell us what is wrong!”
They ended up flying in a doctor from the Mayo Clinic. As soon as he saw my dad and looked at his case history, he told me, “I have no doubt your father has mesothelioma.”
I had no clue what he was even talking about, let alone dealing with the fact that he had a cancer that kills in the end, and no one could tell me anything about this illness. You have to understand that back then, there in the upper peninsula of Michigan, there was very little internet access. I didn’t even know how to begin researching it.
Well, they took a piece of Daddy’s lung out for a biopsy, and on May 15 it came back as stage IV mesothelioma. I was just so mad that all this time had been wasted, while his health just deteriorated. It took me getting mad and fighting with them to even get a diagnosis!
I lost my hero on June 7 from mesothelioma. He died the same day my youngest son was to graduate from college. He missed out on that. We’ve missed out on so many things now. At the time of his death, my father’s weight was 76 pounds. I will never forget the way he looked.
Of course, now my family lives in fear that I will get this also from materials my Dad might have brought home from his work on Navy bases. My husband also is retired from the Navy with 23 years, and we worry about his exposure to asbestos. I already suffer from asthma and we worry what could happen if I contract mesothelioma.
Dad served in the Korean conflict at age 17, and no VA nursing home in the upper part of Michigan would take him because they didn’t know how to deal with his illness. I am on a mission every time this is something going on in D.C., from a trust fund to any bill, you bet this daughter of a Vet is on that hill fighting for the rights of meso victims! I will not stop!
Warren Faubert was 69 when he died of mesothelioma on June 7, 2002. He died less than one month after his official diagnosis.
I recently posted about the progress of a new drug to treat mesothelioma, called ONCONASE, which has completed Phase IIIb clinical trials and is being fast-tracked for approval in the U.S. ONCONASE already has orphan-drug status in the EU and Australia.
This week, I found a story that provides even more hope. It seems a Madison, Wisconsin-based biotech firm, Quintessence Bioscience, also has a promising mesothelioma drug in the works that operates along the same lines as ONCONASE, tagged QBI-139. The Quintessence drug is not yet in clinical trials.
Both drugs target RNA in cancer cells. They are therapeutic ribonucleases (RNases), which WTN News (Wisconsin Technology News) writer Steve Clark describes as “ubiquitous enzymes that destroy RNA.” He explains that researchers including the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Ronald Raines, “discovered that RNases from non-human species sometimes are not regulated inside human cells and can cause cell death. Surprisingly, cancer cells are much more susceptible than normal cells to foreign RNases.”
The ONCONASE product is made from purified frog eggs. The Quintessence drug is 95 percent human, but still kills human cancer cells, Clark reports. Both drugs can kill a wide range of different human cancer types, he says, so its application has broad potential. The ONCONASE clinical trial data is from patients with malignant mesothelioma.
Clark reports that Quintessence is optimistic about its QBI-139 surpassing the positive results of ONCONASE. He says that frog-derived ONCONASE has been shown to cause allergic reactions in some patients, which would be mitigated in the 95 percent human-gene QBI-139. Additionally, he reports QBI-139 is less toxic than ONCONASE, which will allow it to be better tolerated by some patients in larger doses.
Currently, Clark reports, QBI-139 is being produced for use in a Phase I clinical trial, which is set to begin this summer and end sometime in 2009. It is anticipated that the trial will be held at the University of Wisconsin Carbone Cancer Center.
Steve Clark, Ph.D., is a former professor and medical researcher at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health, and is currently a freelance writer and consultant on biotechnology issues.