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Promising Mesothelioma Research Nets Awards For Young Scientists

mesothelioma researchMesothelioma research can be expected to make great strides in the coming years thanks to new exciting work underway now all over the world by young scientific investigators. Five of this promising group just received the Young Investigator Travel Awards at the twelfth biennial meeting of the International Mesothelioma Interest Group (iMig 2014), held in Capetown, South Africa. Our firm is proud to have initiated this important award in 2008 and to continue to sponsor it. On behalf of all of us at Kazan, McClain, Satterley and Greenwood, we would like to offer our congratulations on receiving the Young Investigator Travel Awards to each of these promising young mesothelioma research scientists.

Their achievements are a source of pride and inspiration to all of us involved in mesothelioma who seek new pathways to treat and cure this devastating disease. We hope they realize how many people – those with mesothelioma, their families and those of us who strive to help them medically and legally – appreciate the outstanding work they are doing in this field.

It is always a pleasure to see hard-working forward-thinking young researchers receiving the recognition they deserve. The award reflects the endless hours they have spent in their labs on their mesothelioma research projects.

We look forward to seeing the results of their future work in mesothelioma research and wish them every success.

2014 iMig Young Investigator Award Recipients

Sébastien Anguille, MD is a researcher at the University of Antwerp and Antwerp University Hospital
Edegem Belgium. He is one of the authors of a recent paper “Dendritic cell vaccination in malignant pleural mesothelioma: A phase I/II study” published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology.

Lincun Wu, MD is a research associate with the University Health Network in Toronto, Canada’s Mesothelioma Research Program at the Princess Margaret Cancer Center. There, Dr. Wu is involved in a research project to improve the outcome of mesothelioma by combining chemotherapy with immunotherapy.

Alistair Cook, PhD is a research assistant professor in the School of Medicine and Pharmacology of the University of Western Australia. He is the lead author of a recent study about a potential new way to improve anti-tumor immunity or chemo-immunotherapy efficacy in mesothelioma treatment.

Tanguy Siewert, MD is an assistant professor of medicine at the University of Chicago. He specializes in head, neck and lung cancers. He studies which novel drugs appear most promising, which individual tumors are more likely to respond to these treatments, and how to successfully combine therapies. Dr. Seiwert uses this pre-clinical knowledge to develop new treatments for use in clinical trials, and to ultimately improve patient care.

Kimberly Birnie is earning a PhD at the Lung Institute of the University of Western Australia where she is focused on malignant mesothelioma research. She has been recognized by the Thoracic Society of Australia and New Zealand for her work

Mesothelioma Research Presented by Kazan Law at iMig 2014

I am pleased that our firm was chosen to present three research abstracts at the International Mesothelioma Interest Group (iMig 2014) conference in Cape Town, South Africa. In this video I provide an introduction to the mesothelioma research abstracts and explain how they are presented at the world’s leading conference on mesothelioma.

Kazan Law First to Support Upcoming iMig 2014 Conference for Mesothelioma Research

iMig 2014 Cape TownMesothelioma research, like all scientific research, does not happen without funds. Although funds for mesothelioma research come from government agencies, universities and hospitals, it is no secret that money from private sources helps get the ball rolling either through funding the grant application process, additional staff positions, purchasing state-of-the-art equipment or helping to support conferences where researchers from all over the world can sit together and really discuss ideas.

That’s why our firm Kazan, McClain, Satterley & Greenwood, A Professional Corporation is proud to be the first law firm to step up and provide substantial financial support for the upcoming 12th biannual International Conference of the International Mesothelioma Interest Group. (iMig)

We are pleased to continue to sponsor the International Mesothelioma Interest Group (iMig 2014) when it convenes in Capetown, South Africa this October, just as we did in Boston in 2012, Kyoto in 2010, Amsterdam in 2008 and Chicago in 2006.

Recently, our support for iMig has grown beyond our role as a sponsor. We were honored that four abstracts from Kazan Law were chosen for poster presentation at iMig’s 2012 Boston conference.  Ours were the only papers out of hundreds submitted for presentation that were submitted by attorneys.  The information we presented was based on 20 years of experience with asbestos trust funds and 40 years representing asbestos victims. As we focus on the fight for justice for each of our clients, the entirety of our discoveries in this process brings to light implications which we believe are of benefit to the greater good of all mesothelioma cases. It was a privilege to share them.  You can see a three-minute video of me explaining their significance here.

iMig is comprised of independent international scientists and clinicians with the mission of working to understand, cure and prevent mesothelioma.  The iMig conference is one of the most important meetings where scientific information on finding greater treatment solutions for mesothelioma is presented and discussed. Because we want to see an end to the suffering caused by mesothelioma, our firm has been a generous supporter for years. Our commitment to this cause and this conference is unwavering. We give substantially and we give early.

Latest Trends in Asbestos-Related Disease

asbestos diseaseIt’s common knowledge in the scientific community that exposure to asbestos drives the development of several diseases. However, it’s important to remember that scientific knowledge doesn’t stand still. Researchers are always trying to learn something new when it comes to asbestos-related diseases, whether it has to do with diagnosis, treatment or prevention.

During the course of a few years, it’s easy for the research community to acquire so much knowledge that it’s hard to keep track of everything. Recently, I came across an article in The Clinical Respiratory Journal, in which scientists from Australia took a step back and reviewed what is known about illnesses caused by asbestos exposure.

What is the U.S.’s policy on asbestos?
Before we get into what the scientists wrote in their article, let’s take a moment to remember that asbestos is still a health threat in the U.S. The fact that it’s often a topic of discussion as a health threat may mislead people into thinking that it’s no longer allowed in this country. Unfortunately, they’d be wrong, but it’s not for lack of trying.

Asbestos was a common component of many construction materials up until the 1970s. Due to the growing scientific consensus connecting the mineral to diseases such as malignant pleural mesothelioma, responsible companies started eliminating asbestos from their manufacturing processes. Elsewhere, the federal government started banning the use of certain asbestos products. These efforts came to a head in 1989, when the Environmental Protection Agency prohibited most uses of asbestos. However, the powerful asbestos lobby successfully reversed most of this policy.

As it stands now in the U.S., new uses of asbestos are banned, along with inclusion in the manufacturing of rollboard, flooring felt, corrugated paper, construction paper and specialty paper. It is still allowed in products that have always used it, such as cement sheets.

What does the latest review tell us?
The continued use of asbestos is significant because of its ties to illness. While malignant mesothelioma is arguably the most feared of these diseases, it’s important to remember that the breadth of asbestos-related diseases is wider than that. Other complications include asbestosis, pleural plaques, diffuse pleural thickening, benign pleural effusions, rounded atelectasis and lung cancer.

Here’s what the researchers had to write about the progress in addressing these health issues:

“No new treatments have been developed for the benign [asbestos-related diseases]. Significant advances have been made in chest imaging and nuclear medicine techniques, which have greatly assisted in diagnosis and treatment planning, and in thoracoscopic surgical techniques for diagnosing [malignant mesothelioma]. Sadly, [malignant mesothelioma] remains a deadly disease despite much research endeavor.”

They suggested that further research on the mechanisms of mesothelioma can help the medical community provide more effective treatment.

What can consumers do now?
The review authors suggested that, in the meantime, the best way to tackle asbestos-related diseases is to prevent them in the first place. That means banning the use and production of asbestos around the globe.

The World Health Organization is working with several intergovernment groups and the International Labour Organization to support education on the dangers of asbestos and the use of safe alternative materials. Meanwhile, you as the consumer need to continue to pressure your legislators so that they know that you don’t want your life to be in danger.

Scientists Rejuvenate Immune System to Attack Mesothelioma

mesothelioma researchOne of the dangers of asbestos-related diseases, such as malignant mesothelioma, is that you may not know you’re sick until you develop symptoms. This process can take between 20 and 50 years, and by the time you notice problems, most treatment options are limited to palliative care.

The long latency periods of these diseases mean that many patients are advanced in age. Scientists think this may be a problem because the cells of the immune system behave differently as people age, and this may not be helpful in cases of cancer.

But what if scientists could somehow reverse the aging process of these immune cells? Researchers from Australia may have succeeded in doing that very thing.

How does the immune system work?
Your immune system is quite a powerful weapon, designed to protect your body from bacteria, fungi and viruses. These cells are also tasked to scavenge and clean up injured or damaged cells, including cancerous cells. Experts say that if the immune system turned against us, we wouldn’t stand a chance.

So how exactly does the immune system work? There are two main types of cells:

  • Phagocytes are cells that “eat” potentially harmful matter, such as pathogens and damaged cells. Granulocytes, dendritic cells and macrophages are all considered phagocytes. Macrophages in particular are known for eating larger matter
  • Lymphocytes are white blood cells that “learn” to recognize different types of harmful cells so they can attack them more effectively. They can identify viruses, bacteria and cancer cells. B-cells and T-cells are both considered varieties of lymphocytes.

The different parts of the immune system usually work together. For example, macrophages not only eat harmful matter, but they also put the other cells of the immune system on alert in case there’s some type of infection.

Researchers make old cells young
Researchers from Australia’s Curtin University theorize that cancer is particularly prevalent among older individuals because their macrophages become less active, and therefore cannot help the immune system kill off malignant cells. They say this may be especially true of mesothelioma and lung cancer.

This concept also led them to explore what would happen if they could make the macrophages of older individuals act like those of younger subjects. For their experiment, they looked at young and old mice, both groups of which were initially healthy. After the scientists exposed them to mesothelioma cells, they noticed the immune systems of the older mice were more sluggish to respond. However, after the researchers treated them with a certain drug, the macrophages of the older mice became active and helpful again.

Scientist Connie Jackaman had this to say to Science Network in Western Australia:

“Immune dysfunction is not permanent and in fact can be restored to function similarly to a young immune system. The public may be interested to know that as they get older it is not necessarily all downhill. The next step for our research group is to see if we can target macrophages in a live model and induce tumor regression in elderly immune systems.”

In the U.S., more than 7,300 individuals die every year because of malignant mesothelioma or asbestos-induced lung cancer. The long latency periods of asbestos-induced diseases mean that their incidence probably won’t peak for another 10 years or so. This is true for the U.S., the U.K. and Australia.

These trends are what motivate scientists in their search for a cure for asbestos-related diseases, and they’re what motivates us at Kazan Law to keep fighting for our clients.

Vitamin-Drug Combo May Help Treat Mesothelioma

mesothelioma treatmentRecently, I learned about a team of researchers in Italy who are working on a new combination treatment that brings together vitamin C, the chemotherapy agent gemcitabine and EGCG, which is an antioxidant found in green tea.

On the surface of it, this may sound like a strange approach to treating mesothelioma. However, the paper, which was published in the journal PLOS ONE, suggests researchers found promising results.

Looking at the individual components
Before we get into the details of what the scientists did in the laboratory, it may help first to understand what components they were working with.

First, there’s the use of antioxidants. These are nutrients that help stabilize the destructive forces of free radicals, which are molecules that degrade the cells in your body, drive the aging process and increase the risk of cancer. Free radicals come from all over the environment: air pollution, ultraviolet radiation, unhealthy food – even the simple act of food metabolism in the body creates free radicals. However, antioxidants help neutralize the effects of free radicals.

Vitamin C, which is also known as ascorbate or ascorbic acid, is a popular example of an antioxidant. You consume this nutrient every time you eat any of a large variety of fruits and vegetables.

Green tea also has antioxidants, including EGCG, which belongs to a class of plant molecules known as polyphenols.

Usually, in the context of cancer care, antioxidants are discussed as a preventive measure. However, previous studies convinced the scientists from Italy that vitamin C and EGCG may actually be able to act directly against tumor cells. For their study, the researchers combined these two antioxidants with the chemotherapy drug gemcitabine. This medication interferes with cancer cells’ ability to replicate the DNA that they need to reproduce and grow, thereby curbing the growth of malignancies. Currently, doctors prescribe gemcitabine for diseases such as breast cancer, ovarian cancer, pancreatic cancer and non-small cell lung cancer.

Researchers test-drive their drug-antioxidant combo
The researchers’ goal for this study was to find a possible new treatment for mesothelioma, a disease that currently has no cure. In the laboratory, they combined vitamin C, EGCG and gemcitabine. They referred to this mixture as Active Nutrients/Drug, or AND. In order to test the effects of AND, the scientists created both cell models and rodent models of mesothelioma.

In the cell model, they observed that the individual components of AND seemed to work in a synergistic manner, with each active ingredient enhancing the effects of the others, causing the diseased cells to die.

In the mouse model, the researchers found that AND reduced the size of the animals’ tumors, decreased the number and size of metastases, and prevented abdominal bleeding.

“Here we show that a triple combined treatment based on EGCG, ascorbate and gemcitabine (AND therapy) reduces mesothelioma growth and metastasization,” the researchers wrote in PLOS ONE. “Due to the lack of side effects, we propose that this combined therapy should be evaluated in other preclinical and clinical models.”

Because this experiment was conducted using cell and animal models, it may be years before scientists evaluate the performance of AND in human clinical trials. Still, this study is important because it provides the foundation for a potential new way to tackle mesothelioma.

We at Kazan Law look forward to the future direction of this work.

Understanding Metastasis and Mesothelioma

metastasisThere are several therapeutic approaches that doctors may take in order to treat malignant mesothelioma. Both chemotherapy and radiation are capable of killing diseased cells. Additionally, some patients may be eligible for surgery that can remove as much of the cancerous tissue as possible.

However, even with these treatments, patients who have mesothelioma are still at risk for medical complications if their disease metastasizes.

What is metastasis?

We understand cancer as a disease in which a group of cells within one piece of tissue in the body goes rogue and multiplies far beyond what is considered a normal, healthy rate. This leads to the growth of tumors, which can become deadly if they interfere with the function of the surrounding tissues.

Metastasis occurs when these malignant cells break off from the tumor, travel to another part of the body and produce another tumor. Experts from the American Cancer Society (ACS) describe this process as occurring through one of three pathways in the body: circulation through the lymph nodes, circulation through the blood vessels or along the surfaces that line the body’s cavities. Mesothelioma is one of the few cancers that can spread via the cavity linings.

The metastasis process takes place over four steps:

  1. A group of tumor cells stops growing.
  2. This group breaks away from the tumor.
  3. The cells move out of the affected tissue and either enter one of the circulatory systems, or travels along the body cavity lining.
  4. The cells settle in a new location and grow into a new tumor.

Metastasis is deadly in part because its symptoms can easily be mistaken for another health condition.

Metastasis can affect mesothelioma patients

When doctors need to determine how bad a case of mesothelioma is, one of factors that they measure is how far the cancerous cells have spread.

For example, the National Cancer Institute describes localized stage I mesothelioma as being confined to the lining of the chest wall, diaphragm or possibly the lung. However, in the advanced stages of the disease, cancer may spread beyond these tissues and affect the diaphragm and lungs themselves, as well as the lymph nodes, trachea, esophagus, fatty tissues, soft tissues, peritoneum, ribs, the sac that encapsulates the heart, or the heart itself. In some stage IV cases, the malignancy may travel even further and strike the spine, brain, prostate and thyroid.

Scientists are taking a closer look

In order to tackle metastasis more effectively, some scientists who study cancer have decided to make this specific phenomenon their niche.

“Fewer than 8 percent of researchers mention the word ‘metastasis’ in their grant applications, in the context of actually working on the problem…Figuring out how to prevent cancer – a key research focus today – would be the best approach…but that’s of little help to patients who already have cancer,” said Dan Welch, a member of the ACS Scientific Council, as quoted by the ACS. “To prevent something, you have to know its cause. We have no idea why cancer cells spread, let alone what prompts them to disseminate throughout the body.”

One possible key to understanding metastasis is the study of the tumor microenvironment in which breakaway cells settle. Scientists are also exploring the genes that are involved in metastasis, and why certain clusters of breakaway cells can remain dormant for decades before forming new tumors.

The Environmental Working Group projects the incidence of asbestos-related diseases to increase for another 10 years or so.  At Kazan Law, we are optimistic that scientists are on the right track to helping such cancer patients and truly understanding the cause of metastasis.

Researchers May Have Found a Way to Improve Mesothelioma Drug’s Effectiveness

scientist with test tubeA significant amount of research is dedicated to finding more effective approaches to malignant mesothelioma. Scientists are trying to determine the best surgical techniques, create better diagnostic tools and test the effects of various chemotherapy drugs. At Kazan, McClain, Lyons, Greenwood and Harley, we keep our ears to the ground for you, and we are excited about what we are hearing.

For example, some researchers decided to focus their investigation on improving the performance of the tools that are already available, such as cisplatin, which is one of the most common medications prescribed for mesothelioma patients. One team from Switzerland found that short-term starvation may actually give cisplatin a boost, according to a new study appearing in the journal BMC Cancer.

What does cisplatin do for mesothelioma patients?
There is no cure for Posted in mesothelioma treatment | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Personalized medicine may brighten outlook on mesothelioma research and treatment

nurse with patientIndividuals who have been diagnosed with malignant mesothelioma share certain things in common. Asbestos exposure was a likely cause of your condition. Respiratory difficulties are a prominent problem. If you were not aware that you were developing the disease until its symptoms manifested, you were probably diagnosed while the cancer was in its advanced stages.

With all these similarities, you would expect that all patients with your illness would respond the same way to the same treatments. Unfortunately, this is not true. Not all mesothelioma patients react equally to chemotherapy, radiation or surgery. One of the most important reasons for this is that the diseased tissues in patients may be genetically different.

At Kazan, McClain, Satterley, Lyons, Greenwood & Oberman, we keep track of the most promising advances in the medical field. One active area of scientific research, known as personalized medicine, is giving scientists hope that they can treat patients more effectively.

Personalized medicine is shifting the focus in cancer
Currently, most patients (and even some medical professionals) think of cancer in terms of the organ or tissue from which it originates. For example, people are familiar with prostate cancer, breast cancer, liver cancer, lung cancer and so on. They also think of leukemia as affecting the blood-forming cells of the bone marrow.

However, Edward Benz, Jr., M.D., the president of the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, discussed new ways of thinking about malignant diseases in a blog post on the website for Stand Up To Cancer, an advocacy group that supports basic research. He noted that in recent years, scientists started understanding that tumors in individual patients, even when they are the same type of cancer, may have important differences that can impact the success of treatment.

For example, women who have breast cancer have diseased cells that may be classified according to the presence or absence of a cell receptor that responds to hormones and hormonal treatments.

Additionally, women can have certain mutations in specific genes that can make them more likely to develop breast cancer or other malignancies. Knowledge of these mutations can help doctors determine whether certain women need to be monitored more closely.

These approaches are part of what is known as personalized medicine, in which treatments can be tailored to patients at the individual level rather than with sweeping, broad strokes.

How can mesothelioma patients benefit from personalized medicine?
The reason why personalized medicine can be valuable for people with mesothelioma is that it can help doctors determine which therapeutic approaches may be the most appropriate for different patients.

For example, one team of scientists from around the U.S. released a study in 2004, which demonstrated how a panel of 27 genes helped doctors predict survival time among mesothelioma patients who underwent surgery.

By 2009, researchers from this team refined this approach further by predicting survival among surgical patients with the help of a four-gene expression ratio test.

“Patients whose gene ratio test results predict a good prognosis after surgery may more confidently select the treatment option that includes surgery,” Raphael Bueno, M.D., and his colleagues wrote in their study.

Knowing who to operate on could be important because such procedures are invasive and, if approached haphazardly, can actually hurt patients.

The search continues
While personalized medicine sounds promising for mesothelioma patients, this scientific advance is still relatively young.

“For all its promise, the field of cancer genomics is less than a decade old. The progress in mapping out cancer’s genetic variety, though substantial, is still at a relatively early stage,” Benz wrote in his blog. “As we fill in the map and develop a new taxonomy for cancer – a new system for distinguishing tumor types and subtypes – the advances promise to be enormous. But we are still learning how to use these powerful new tools. Much remains to be done.”

And we, along with our clients, can’t wait to see what comes next.

Related posts:

Mesothelioma Clinical Trials: What They Are, How They Work, How to Participate

Mesothelioma Treatment by Stage

Current Mesothelioma Treatment Research and Studies

 

 

International Mesothelioma Interest Group Young Investigator Award Recipient Licun Wu

Dr. Licun Wu

In celebration of the meeting of the International Mesothelioma Interest Group’s recent meeting in Boston, at iMig 2012, we at Kazan, McClain, Lyons, Greenwood and Harley funded this year’s Young Investigator Awards, as we have done at each meeting since 2008. This is the third in a series of entries discussing the promising work of one of the recipients.

Researchers from the University of Toronto are figuring out how to use the body’s own immune system to boost the efficacy of chemotherapy in the treatment of malignant mesothelioma. Dr. Licun Wu, one of the scientists heading this work, was kind enough to sit down with us and discuss this exciting approach to medicine.

Activating the body’s defenses
Several medical experts are exploring ways to use the body’s immune system to kill malignant cells, according to the American Cancer Society. These approaches, collectively known as immunotherapy, may act directly on the cancer or support the actions of healthy cells.

In their laboratory, Wu and his team are focusing specifically on the behavior of the immune system between cycles of chemotherapy.

“Cancer cells tend to repopulate during the breaks between chemotherapy treatments. Evidence has shown that the rate of repopulation of surviving cancer cells accelerates over time, so better approaches to stop this process need to be developed,” said Wu.

The research team’s experiments revealed that blocking the actions of CTLA-4, a protein that acts as a brake on certain immune responses, helps prevent mesothelioma cells from repopulating during breaks in chemotherapy. Reining in this protein may allow a type of immune cell known as natural killer T cells to flourish and fight the disease.

This study potentially lays the groundwork for clinical trials that use CTLA-4 blocking medications. We at Kazan Law are happy to support this research, as we know that diversifying the types of treatments available to mesothelioma patients will do them a world of good by giving them more than one way to fight this disease.

Related posts:

International Mesothelioma Interest Group 2012 Young Investigator Award Recipient Karin Schelch

International Mesothelioma Group 2012 Young Investigator Award Recipient Yuen Yee Cheng

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