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We have exciting news! The next stop on the 2018 International Symposium on Malignant Mesothelioma tour is New York City on Friday, Oct. 5, 2018, and registration is now open.

This one-day event — mirroring our early June Minneapolis conference — will cover current treatment options, treatment advances, clinical trials and supportive care and will feature an impressive speaker roster of prominent experts in the field. See the full agenda and speakers here.

The Symposium is geared to attendees from all walks of life, including patients and their families, advocates, medical professionals, and those who have lost loved ones to mesothelioma.

For our bereaved community, the day after the conference, Saturday, Oct. 6, we will hold a special Celebration of Life tribute ceremony in memory of those we have lost. More details to come.

Don’t miss out on this unique opportunity for everyone in the mesothelioma community to come together and support one another. Register today!

Should you have any questions, please contact us at info@curemeso.org or 703-879-3797.

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Effective today, Aug. 1, the Meso Foundation’s new office location will be 1615 L Street NW, Suite 430, Washington, D.C. 20036. Our office numbers will remain the same:

  • Phone: 703-879-3797
  • Fax: 571-363-2784

This move was prompted by continued issues with mail delivery that neither our previous landlord nor USPS were able to resolve. Our new location has a mailing office that will ensure receipt of all mail. This is crucial for us as we rely on the support of our individual donors.

Should you have any questions about the relocation, please feel free to contact us at 703-879-3797 or info@curemeso.org. We look forward to serving the mesothelioma community from our new office!

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IMPORTANT: This is a new action! Even if you’ve already contacted your congressional representatives about establishing the patient registry, please also take this action targeted at Congresswoman Nita Lowey (D-NY 17th District) and Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro (D-CT 3rd District).
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As many in our community are aware, last Thursday, July 19, there was a steam pipe explosion in Manhattan’s Flatiron district. While clean-up operations are still underway in the area, test results have positively confirmed the presence of asbestos in the resulting debris, and the New York City fire department has evacuated 49 affected buildings. Fifth Avenue remains closed between 19th and 22nd Streets for decontamination.

Con Edison has advised anyone within approximately a block of the blast at Fifth Avenue and 21st Street to bag the clothes they were wearing and to deliver them to one of Con Edison’s collection centers:

  • 10 E. 15th St., inside Clinton School
  • Near 19th Street and Broadway
  • 22nd Street and Broadway

While this may feel burdensome, we join the New York Committee for Occupational Safety and Health (NYCOSH) in urging anyone whose clothes or belongings may have been contaminated to comply and to even double bag the contaminated articles in order to avoid further exposing themselves or others to potential asbestos dust. We advise against washing contaminated clothing in a conventional washing machine as the fibers may become airborne. One should also not put contaminated articles into the trash as that may expose sanitation workers. The best and safest option is to deliver any contaminated articles to Con Edison for disposal. Claim forms are available at www.coned.com/en/services-and-outages/claim-form for article reimbursement.

This situation is a reminder that asbestos exposure is an ongoing problem in the United States and the world. While the Meso Foundation supports a ban on asbestos, we believe that funding medical research is the most effective path to finding better mesothelioma treatments and to eradicating the disease. Learn more about asbestos at www.curemeso.org/asbestos.

Please share with your family and friends in the NYC area. If you have any questions, contact the Meso Foundation at 703-879-3797 or email info@curemeso.org. We are here to help.

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This week, the Meso Foundation is happy to welcome two new members of our Washington, D.C. office staff: Michael Braeuninger and Jordan Fingerhut. Michael joins us as the Director of Development and Jordan as the Community Support Assistant.

Michael Braeuninger

As Director of Development, Michael will build relationships with stakeholders in the mesothelioma community and support our executive and board leadership to advance the mission and fundraising goals of the Foundation. Additionally, he will manage all key functions of the development office and the fundraising initiatives carried out by our amazing supporters on behalf of the Foundation.

Connect with Michael on Facebook, via email at michael@curemeso.org or by phone at 571-775-0400.

Jordan Fingerhut

In her role, Jordan will support our mesothelioma community by educating new and current patients about the Foundation’s various programs and initiatives, managing our support groups, overseeing the Patient Travel Grant Program and communicating within our social media communities.

A native to Washington, D.C., Jordan recently graduated from the University of Virginia with a degree in anthropology and bioethics.

Connect with Jordan on Facebook, via email at jfingerhut@curemeso.org or by phone at 202-909-5210.

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The Mesothelioma Applied Research Foundation (Meso Foundation) is excited to announce this week the addition of five new members to the Board of Directors:

The Board of Directors assumes responsibility for ensuring the Foundation’s long-term financial stability and integrity and – through consensus and majority vote with the other board members – for governing the Foundation and setting its strategic direction and broad policy directives. Each new member will serve a three-year term.

“I look forward to working with this talented group of individuals,” said Mary Hesdorffer, nurse practitioner and executive director of the Meso Foundation. “I know that their leadership capabilities will continue to serve this community in a focused and ethical manner as we all work to advance the Foundation’s mission.”

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A Russian asbestos company is now flippantly marketing its products with the face of President Donald Trump and his alleged approval. The Mesothelioma Applied Research Foundation knows that the patients and community we work with every day are the true faces of mesothelioma, a deadly cancer expected to kill more than 100,000 Americans over the next 40 years.

We also know that exposure to asbestos — a known carcinogen — is an ongoing problem that spans multiple administrations and one that has led to a rise in mesothelioma diagnoses.

A mesothelioma diagnosis is an emotionally overwhelming experience for patients and their families that oftentimes adds a financial burden of traveling to be seen by one of a few mesothelioma specialists. To help, we created the Patient Travel Grant program, which provides a one-time grant of up to $1,000 to cover the costs of travel, lodging and meals.

Join us in telling Russia that mesothelioma is no laughing matter by making a donation to the Meso Foundation today. Your gift will support the Patient Travel Grant program and will ensure that every patient has the opportunity to see an expert, regardless of their ability to pay.

Editor’s Note: Previously, we ran the title “The true faces of mesothelioma — Russian asbestos & President Trump.” We did not mean to imply President Trump or the Russian asbestos company were the true faces of mesothelioma.

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One of this year’s American Society for Clinical Oncology (ASCO) updates in mesothelioma included the release of the first results for the Phase 2 Study of the EZH2 inhibitor, tazemetostat, for malignant mesothelioma, presented by the chair of the board of the Mesothelioma Applied Research Foundation (Meso Foundation), Marjorie Zauderer, MD.

This study enrolled 61 BAP1 loss-of-function mesothelioma patients who had been previously treated with at least two other lines of therapy, and who had relapsed or never had a response.

“We are always searching for promising new treatments for patients with mesothelioma, particularly for those with relapsed or refractory disease,” said Dr. Zauderer, medical oncologist and co-director of the Mesothelioma Program at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. “These findings show that tazemetostat monotherapy substantially delayed disease progression without significant toxicities, which is clinically meaningful. This is encouraging for the patients and families impacted by mesothelioma, and for the oncologists who treat them.”

In particular, the primary endpoint of the study, defined as disease control, exceeded expectations with 51% of patients reaching a complete response, partial response, or stable disease (versus the anticipated minimum of 35%) at 12 weeks. At 24 weeks, 26% of patients maintained disease control.

The therapy was administered orally twice daily. Although five patients had dose reductions based on side-effects, no patients quit the study. Side-effects were manageable and included fatigue, decreased appetite, dyspnea, nausea, and cancer pain.

This therapy targets mesothelioma by inhibiting EZH2, an enzyme that, when BAP1 protein is absent, suppresses genes that inhibit tumor growth. Therefore, the idea is that by keeping EZH2 in check with tazemetostat, important tumor suppressor genes previously turned off by the presence of EZH2, become turned on and able to serve a protective purpose against cancer. One such gene in particular, which is familiar to mesothelioma patients, is the BAP1 gene. When the gene loses its ability to suppress cancer, the process is called a BAP1 loss-of-function.

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Earlier this month, during the most recent meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO), first results from a new study are bound to bring hope to the mesothelioma community.

The aptly named DREAM study coming out of Australia is one of the first of its kind in mesothelioma, and so far, its results look very promising.

“We’ve recently seen that combining chemotherapy and immunotherapy can help people with lung cancer live longer,” said the principal investigator of the study, Anna Nowak, MD, PhD, of the University of Western Australia (and a member of our Science Advisory Board). “The DREAM study results are the first evidence that the same strategy may be helpful in mesothelioma,” she added.

Dr. Nowak’s study takes the two most promising treatment approaches tested in mesothelioma, neither of which is a silver bullet – Alimta/cisplatin with a roughly 40% response rate, and immunotherapy with a 20% response rate – and combines them together in this Phase 2 clinical trial in hopes of a synergistic outcome.

Phase 2 clinical trials are designed to evaluate the response of a drug (or a combination of drugs, as the case may be), so they’re not built to compare certain treatments against others nor do they enroll enough patients for comparison type analyses. However, data collected even in such small trials can provide valuable signals about whether an approach is worth investigating further.

About the Study – A Phase 2 Trial of DuRvalumab with First Line chEmotherApy in Mesothelioma with a Safety Run In

Patients were first treated with Alimta (pemetrexed)/cisplatin along with an immunotherapeutic drug called Durvalumab, after which, during the maintenance stage of the trial, chemotherapy was dropped and immunotherapy continued. From the first 31 patients for whom data has been analyzed, 65% saw a partial response of varying degrees.

However, as Dr. Nowak cautions us, these results are still early and from a small number of treated patients.

“Confirming these results in mesothelioma in a larger study is of the utmost priority, and I urge the mesothelioma community to support a definitive clinical trial of chemoimmunotherapy,” she stated.

The toxicities associated with this trial were similar to what would normally be observed with either chemo or immunotherapy alone, and ranged between grade 1 – 3.

As patients learn of this relatively new approach, which has seen success in lung cancer research, we encourage them to enroll in a clinical trial in order to capture these valuable data.

UPDATED: In the United States, a similar trial led by Dr. Patrick Forde of Johns Hopkins Phase II MEDI4736 in Combination With Chemotherapy for First-Line Treatment of Unresectable Mesothelioma (PrE0505) has accrued patients ahead of schedule and is now in the analysis phase.

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The Mesothelioma Applied Research Foundation (Meso Foundation) announced this week that Marjorie Zauderer, MD, a medical oncologist at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, has been voted chair of the board of directors, which governs the organization. She first joined the board in 2017.

Dr. Zauderer succeeded the previous chair Dr. Richard Alexander, a surgeon at Rutgers University, whose term had expired. During his tenure Dr. Alexander was instrumental in the establishment of several new initiatives, including the creation of the first ever Peritoneal Mesothelioma Working Group.

“Dr. Zauderer is a talented clinician and researcher with an exceptional track record in mesothelioma,” said Mary Hesdorffer, nurse practitioner and executive director of the Meso Foundation. “I look forward to working with her in this new capacity.”

Dr. Marjorie G. Zauderer, MD, MS, FACP is co-director of the MSK Mesothelioma Program and Assistant Attending on the Thoracic Oncology Service in the Department of Medicine at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. She received her medical degree from Columbia University’s College of Physicians and Surgeons, completed her residency in Internal Medicine at the New York-Presbyterian Hospital Columbia University Medical Center, and completed fellowship and chief fellowship in medical oncology at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. As a faculty member at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, Dr. Zauderer cares for patients with mesothelioma and other thoracic malignancies. Her practice aims to provide personalized care to patients throughout the course of their treatment based not only on the type of cancer and its genetics but the individual priorities of each and every patient and family.

She is also an active translational and clinical researcher and focuses on the development of new therapies for the treatment of mesothelioma and lung cancers. She has received several awards for her research including a Department of Defense Career Development Award. She is the principal investigator for numerous mesothelioma clinical trials and spearheads the MSK BAP1 program to investigate inherited mutations in the BAP1 gene (BRCA associated protein-1) that predispose patients to malignant pleural mesothelioma and uveal melanoma, as well as renal cell carcinoma, lung cancers, and meningiomas. She also works on developing therapeutics for somatic BAP1 loss and other common molecular alterations as well as novel immunotherapies and biomarkers that may predict response to these new treatments.

She has previously served on the Scientific Advisory Board for the Mesothelioma Applied Research Foundation and is a member of the NCI-CTEP Thoracic Malignancy Steering Committee Mesothelioma Working Group. She has been an active peer reviewer for the Congressionally Directed Medical Research Programs sponsored by the Department of Defense and is active within the American Society of Clinical Oncology. At Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, she is the Thoracic Disease Management Team Lead for the MSK Alliance and is a Core Physician for the MSK-IBM Watson decision support tool for oncology. Dr. Zauderer has lectured and presented her work throughout the United States and international mesothelioma community and has authored/co-authored more than 30 peer-reviewed oncology manuscripts.

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