Posts Tagged ‘mesothelioma research’

Resources for Mesothelioma

Thursday, March 15th, 2012

When facing a diagnosis of mesothelioma, knowing where to turn for information and support can make an enormous difference. While there may be local agencies in your area that provide support related to asbestos exposure or mesothelioma, it is important to understand the role and resources provided by the following agencies.


Founded in 1970, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) exists to safeguard our nation’s water, air and land. The EPA website contains a wealth of information about the uses of asbestos, laws and regulations regarding asbestos, and guidelines for asbestos disposal.


The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is the government agency responsible for promoting workplace safety in order to prevent work-related illness and injury. This branch of the Department of Labor creates regulations and standards for workplace safety. On the OSHA website, you will find information about the industries affected by mesothelioma, the safe handling of asbestos and other useful information and resources.


The National Cancer Institute (NCI) is the national agency responsible for promoting cancer research, development and training through funding and awareness. The NCI website has information about how asbestos is linked to mesothelioma and the available treatments and therapeutic approaches to mesothelioma (both traditional and cutting edge). The site also has a comprehensive list of resources.


The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) operates to promote research, education and training related to workplace health and safety. On the NIOSH website, you can find numerous articles on the risks and prevention of mesothelioma.


The purpose of the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) is to protect the public from environmental hazard. The ATSDR website approaches asbestos and mesothelioma from a public health perspective, with a great overview of asbestos exposure and it’s risks.

Making effective choices begins with being fully informed. For more information about mesothelioma victims rights, click the previous link or fill out our online form.

Mesothelioma: New Vaccine Offers New Hope

Thursday, December 22nd, 2011

Last week the Mayo Clinic published a press release about potentially groundbreaking cancer research that may eventually have a real impact on those suffering with mesothelioma. According to the press release, researchers in partnership at the Mayo Clinic in Arizona and the University of Georgia have successfully tested a vaccine in mice that dramatically reduces the type tumors that make up the majority of cancer cases.

Vaccines are not typically used to treat cancers such as mesothelioma because most vaccines work by stimulating the body’s immune system. Because tumors grow from the body’s own cells, the immune system does not recognize these cells as “foreign,” and essentially ignores them. This vaccine, however, is different, as it can target cancerous cells based on a carbohydrate signature present in the proteins on the surface of the cell. When cancer forms at the cellular level, the surface proteins on the cell membranes change. Specifically, a carbohydrate sequence within the protein changes in a distinct way. For many years researchers have been attempting, with no success, to stimulate the immune system to recognize that difference. This new vaccine may do just that.

The tumors studied in these mice, like most tumors in humans, overproduce a protein known as MUC1 on the cellular surface that contains the type of carbohydrate sequence that changes when the cell becomes cancerous. This new vaccine, for the very first time, targets this carbohydrate sequence and steers the immune system to attack cells that carry that sequence. The vaccine operates in three-part harmony, so to speak, each of which is critical to the success of the vaccine. One aspect of the vaccine helps the body’s immune system to mis-identify the carbohydrate sequence as foreign, while the other two aspects stimulate the antibody and lymphocyte responses. The result is astonishing.

What’s more, not only does this particular vaccine tend to cause a very strong immune response, but also the MUC1 sequence it targets is found in a large majority of cancers that kill, including breast cancer, ovarian cancer, and the historically aggressive pancreatic cancer. The vaccine could potentially be used as a prophylactic treatment for high-risk patients or as an alternative when, in cases like pancreatic cancer, surgery is not an option. According to the study’s co-author Geert-Jan Boons, Ph.D., Franklin Professor of Chemistry and a researcher in the UGA Cancer Center, MUC1 is “overexpressed” in 90 percent of patients who have so-called “triple negative” tumors, in which the tumors are not responsive to drugs or hormone therapy and are therefore very aggressive and difficult to treat.

You may be wondering where mesothelioma fits into this picture. Well, according to a research study published in 2008 by an Australian research team, malignant mesothelioma does result in the overexpression of the MUC1 carbohydrate chain. What this means in the long run for mesothelioma treatment is yet uncertain, but the results of the Mayo Clinic study show great promise for the future. According to last weeks’ press release, the research team is now conducting the preliminary research needed to launch a human trial, and if this stage goes well, human trials could begin as early as 2013.

Study Highlights DIY Risks of Mesothelioma

Thursday, December 1st, 2011

A recent study in Australia confirmed that without certain precautions, do-it-yourself home renovation in homes build prior to 1980 may lead to increased risk of mesothelioma.

Australia has some of the strictest regulations on the uses of asbestos. In general, Australian workers in industries affected by mesothelioma tend to be well organized and vocal when it comes to protecting their health and safety. Lately, concern has been raised over risks of exposure to asbestos associated with home renovation. Results from a recent study published by researchers at the University of Western Australia provide evidence that the concern may be well warranted.

The study identified the primary source of asbestos in each confirmed mesothelioma case in Western Australia between 1960 and 2008, and analyzed the results for insights into the relative risk of certain activities. The results showed a marked increase since 1980 in the incidence of asbestos exposure through renovation. The study also showed that, in the last 4 years, approximately 36% of women and 9% of men diagnosed with mesothelioma identified home renovation as their primary source of asbestos exposure.

The results of this study are relevant in any part of the world. As homes built before 1980 begin to show signs of wear, they are being renovated more frequently. A large percentage of these homes were built using products that contain asbestos. Demolition, sanding, and drilling can disturb and release toxic dust from hidden asbestos, putting workers and homeowners at risk for developing mesothelioma.

The EPA has guidelines for identifying and addressing asbestos in the home, including information about where asbestos can be found, when it can be a problem, and how to identify materials containing asbestos. The EPA also lists “Asbestos Do’s and Don’t for the Homeowner” that give some valuable guidelines for home repairs, renovations and asbestos disposal.


Possible New Mesothelioma Treatment

Wednesday, November 16th, 2011

In June of 2011, the University of Pennsylvania’s Penn Medicine published the results of promising new research in the treatment of mesothelioma. The study, involving 28 patients, compared the traditional method of extrapleural pnumonectomy (EPP), which involves the removal of a lung, and a unique combination of lung-sparing surgery and photodynamic therapy (PDT). To the surprise of the researchers, the patients who received PDT and lung-sparing surgery have, as a group, shown an unusually long survival rate.

Mesothelioma is a very aggressive form of cancer that usually develops in the lining of the lungs called the pleura. Initially, mesothelioma tends to develop slowly, usually developing 10 to 50 years after exposure to asbestos. Because mesothelioma presents few symptoms until it reaches an advanced stage, the large majority of patients are given less than a year to live.

In this study, 14 of the 28 patients studied received a traditional course of mesothelioma treatment. Because the malignant cells can envelope the entire lung, the traditional EPP method of treatment involves a combination of lung removal, chemotherapy and radiation. After treatment, this group had an average survival rate of 8.4 months, which is consistent with historical results from this type of treatment. The results of the PDT group, however, surprised researchers.

The 14 patients who received the alternative treatment underwent a less extensive “lung sparing” surgical procedure, which involved the removal of a limited amount of lung tissue. This procedure was combined with PDT, which uses light both to diminish the disease and to stimulate the immune system. PDT, which stops at the tissue itself, is also much less invasive than radiation, which penetrates the entire body. The results of this approach far exceeded the expectations of researchers. In fact, two years after the study began, the median survival rate of this group of patients has not been reached.

The Penn Mesothelioma and Pleural Program continues to study these and other methods, offering a truly multidisciplinary approach to the study of mesothelioma, mesothelioma treatment and mesothelioma therapy.


New Chemotherapy Combination

Wednesday, September 28th, 2011

In recent years, several clinical trials have shown promising results for the detection and prevention of mesothelioma. Here we will review these treatments and their potential effectiveness.

Chemotherapy is one form of mesothelioma treatment. To date, only one chemotherapy treatment (the combination of Alimta and Cislatin), has gained FDA approval. But new medications on the horizon may bring some good news to mesothelioma patients. A new drug, Onconase, may be one of the very first stem cell medications to make it all the way through clinical trails. This drug has a low toxicity, and is designed to shrink and then eliminate mesothelioma tumors. The FDA has placed Onconase on a fast track for approval because of its potential for helping mesothelioma patients. Yet another promising drug currently in clinical trails is Veglin. Veglin works by stabilizing and shrinking tumors. This drug is currently being tested on patients at the Keck School of Medicine at The University of California.

In addition to chemotherapies, other therapies are showing promise as well. Intensity Modulated Radiation Therapy is now being used across the country. This type of radiation is more precise in its delivery, making the treatment potentially more effective. There are also gene therapies under trial that reportedly use genetically modified viruses to stimulate the immune system to kill cancer cells. And photodynamic therapy uses light to kill cancer cells.

When it comes to mesothelioma prevention and early detection, breakthroughs are happening in that area as well. The Fujirebo Diagnostics test, still under research, is the first biomarker test to use a simple blood screen to detect the presence of biomarkers for mesothelioma. Early diagnosis of mesothelioma is important for providing effective treatment, yet it is also a rare occurrence, as most mesothelioma patients do not notice their symptoms until it is too late.

While these research trials show great promise, it may be years before the treatments become available to the public. This is because the approval process is designed to ensure that patients are kept safe from dangerous side effects and that the effectiveness of the drug is proven.

If you would like more information on mesothelioma, its causes, or treatments, you are welcome to review our mesothelioma articles. If you feel we could be of assistance, please complete our online form, and we will be contact with you as soon as possible.


New Studies: Tea Tree Oil and Mesothelioma

Wednesday, August 19th, 2009

What a week it’s been for mesothelioma research.  In the past two days alone, there have been reports on two separate and promising studies that could have excellent implications for victims of this brutal cancer.

The first was reported on Suriving Mesothelioma yesterday and pertains to a study conducted by researchers at the School of Biomedical, Biomolecular and Chemical Sciences at The University of Western Australia.  Researchers studied the effects of Melaleuca alternifolia (tea tree) oil and terpinen-4-ol (a substance widely believed to be the active ingredient in tea tree oil) on a mesothelioma cell in vitro.  The result: dead mesothelioma cells.  In addition, the more tea tree oil and terpinen-4-ol the researchers added, the more significantly inhibited the growth of the mesothelioma cells turned out to be.  The substances not only caused the cells to die, but they stopped them from reproducing.  What’s more, the added mixture seemed to be significantly less dangerous to non-tumor cells, which makes these extracts more viable as potential bases for mesothelioma-fighting techniques.

The second study, conducted by University of Washington researchers and reported on today at, might be even more extraordinary.  There, scientists tapped into the rapidly burgeoning field of nanotechnology to deliver a potential blow to mesothelioma.  The researchers are investigating the potential of a toxin known as melittin, which is found in bee venom, to combat the cancer.  Although melittin would destroy cells indiscriminately if left to its own devices, scientists are working on equipping the toxin in tiny nanoparticles known as “nanobees” (so named due to their cargo) to specifically target cancer cells.  The delivery system, while sounding incredibly sci-fi, is actually similar to a technique already being developed to combat ovarian cancer, and it represents a further potential application of the technology.

Obviously, these are just studies, which means that any commercial use of these findings is still a ways off.  Still, they offer encouraging hope for people suffering from the effects of asbestos exposure.

Testing Method Improves Mesothelioma Diagnosis

Tuesday, August 11th, 2009

Mesothelioma diagnosis just got significantly more effective thanks to a new testing method that combines preexisting tests already independently used to detect the cancer.  According to an article posted on Surviving Mesothelioma, researchers at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston came to this conclusion after employing the experimental method on 48 patients suspected of having mesothelioma.  The result: a near doubling of the sensitivity rate of the tests.

The researchers, led by Rachel Factor, an instructor of pathology at Boston Medical Center, collected cells using cytological methods, which involves studying tissue taken from patients on a cellular level.  Cytological methods of detection are considered favorable because they depend upon small samples that do not require invasive techniques to acquire.  The flip side of this ease is that such methods can be inaccurate.  Looking at irritated but otherwise normal cells from the lung lining can look remarkably similar to mesothelioma, for example.

After harvesting the cells, the researchers subjected the samples to not one but two genetic tests.  The first, called karyotyping, involves analyzing the cells’ chromosomes to look for any irregularities that would point toward cancer.  The second, known as flourescent in situ hybridization, or FISH, uses fluorescent probes to detect specific lengths of DNA in chromosomes.  When the researchers applied the modified test to the 48 patients, they noticed a doubling in the detection of mesothelioma.

This is great news, obviously, but the test has room for improvement.  Chief among them is (still) accuracy.  Even after the aforementioned doubling in detection, the sensitivity of the test was still only marked at 60%.  That means that the opportunity for false-negative results is unacceptably high.  One way the researchers could improve the test’s sensitivity is by employing additional FISH probes.  The only problem with that is, many of these probes are not yet commercially available.  Additional research, experimentation, and studies are needed before this test can be fully perfected.  Still, this is a huge step in the right direction, one which may lead to an improvement in the early detection and treatment of this disease and the quality of life of its sufferers.