USC Norris earns best-ever rating from National Cancer Institute

USC Norris earns best-ever rating from National Cancer Institute
The USC Norris Comprehensive Cancer Centered earned an “outstanding” distinction from the National Cancer Institute rating as part of its five-year core grant renewal process.

U.S.C. Norris earns best-ever rating from National Cancer Institute

The USC Norris Comprehensive Cancer Center has received an elite score from the National Cancer Institute (NCI) as part of its five-year core grant renewal process.

The June site review produced the best result ever for the cancer center, earning an “outstanding” distinction from the NCI reviewers.

“This highly laudatory review is a validation by the nation’s cancer experts of all the considerable effort and talent of the USC Norris Comprehensive Cancer Center senior leaders, program, and core directors and administration, “said Stephen B. Gruber, MD. PhD, MPH, director of the USC Norris Comprehensive Cancer.

“The NCI recognition reaffirms the center as a scientific leader as well as a vital community and regional resource,” said Carman A. Puliafino, MD, MBA, dean of the Keck School of Medicine of USC.

Established in 1971, the USC Norris Comprehensive Cancer Center has benefited from continuous recognition and funding from the NCI since 1973, when it was named one of the original eight comprehensive cancer centers in the country. In its previous review, USC Norris had received a score in the range classified by the NCI as “excellent.”

“We are now poised to build upon the incredible accomplishment to further strengthen our efforts to push the boundaries of cancer discovery in order to better prevent, diagnose, treat and cure cancer,” said Gruber, an oncologist and geneticist who holds the H. Leslie and Elaine S. Hoffman Cancer Research Chair at the Keck School of Medicine of USC.

The review recommends continued full funding from the NCI to continue its support of a broad range of clinical, research and educational programs at USC Norris. The award is designed to reduce the impact of cancer upon the lives of people in California and beyond.

GRAPHENE strips as “flying carpets” deliver cancer cure drugs

GRAPHENE – New Research
That May Help Mesothelioma Victims


An international team of researchers has developed a drug delivery technique that utilizes GRAPHENE strips as “flying carpets” to deliver drugs to cancer cells.  The technique was found to perform better well when tested in a mouse model targeting a human lung cancer tumor.

Graphene Tests Succeed

GRAPHENE successfully proved itself in lab tests against six kinds of cancer cells. Flaked Graphene oxide preferentially hits these cancers right in the stem cells.

The Graphene strip works when a cancer drug treatment can be physically integrated and bound to it because of similar molecular structures of Graphene and the drug.  So, various drug treatments can be attached to the surface of the Graphene by a combination of amino acids known as peptides.

Dr. Parkish Gill, on behalf of the Mesothelioma Research Foundation of America will determine if there is a way to apply and proceed with his non-chemotherapy treatments using the Graphene strip technique.

Click this link to read the complete story

Money Goes to Effective, Ongoing Cancer Research and Treatment


Money Goes to Effective,
Ongoing Cancer Research and Treatment

By Robert Buscemi

The United Association Southern California Pipe Trades Council 16 presented the Mesothelioma Research Foundation of America with a check for $200,000 at the Council’s annual holiday lunch.

DC 16 gives a landmark amount to a worthy cause: (l-r) Shane Rucker, Dr. Parkash Gill, Elizabeth Paul, Jerry Neil Paul and John Ferruccio.

The money, all raised in 2014, will go toward a cure for mesothelioma, a cancer caused by exposure to asbestos. District Council 16 Director of Organizing John Ferruccio emceed the event December 12 at the Dodger Stadium Club. He held off announcing the impressive dollar figure until after the speeches, when a drum roll from the house band built the excitement.

“Every year, as you know, one of our main fundraisers is to find a cure for this unfortunate disease,” Ferruccio told more than 150 attendees. “Mostly, mesothelioma is affecting our grandfathers, fathers and fathers-in-law. It’s gotten a lot better over the years.”

Ferruccio said the Council hosts an annual golf tournament and skeet-shooting events. In addition, the State Building and Construction Trade Council of California raises money through the annual Roger Hamilton golf invitational.

The foundation, known as MESORFA, was founded in 2001 by attorney Jerry Neil Paul, his wife Elizabeth Ann Paul and retired California Pipe Trades Representative and past Vice President of the State Building and Construction Trade Council, Jim Kellogg.

“To bring a treatment to the public costs tens of millions of dollars,” Elizabeth Paul tells the crowd.

In thanking District Council 16, MESORFA Executive Director Elizabeth Paul explained that all funding goes toward research rather than administration.

“All of this money goes directly to fund a lab at USC Norris Comprehensive Cancer Center here in Los Angeles. We use 100 percent of every dollar donated toward research, for clinical trials and to fund the lab. Nothing goes for the foundation – those costs are privately underwritten.”

Cancer Research Costs Millions

Paul said such research is never cheap, and other cancers get more attention and funding than mesothelioma, especially in a tight economy. Indeed, she said, MESORFA operates on a shoestring budget. “I know people don’t understand that, but to bring a treatment to the public costs tens of millions of dollars.”

As such, Paul said District Council 16’s annual contribution is crucial.

“Everybody was extremely generous. Families took care of families. My husband Jerry and I are big on family. Your leaders at District Council 16 view your members as family. Because they have gone out of their way to make sure that there are treatments and cures for this horrible disease.”

The disease hits especially hard at workers who have been exposed to asbestos, as many Pipe Trades and other Building Trades were before protections were put in place against the toxic substance. Even now, workers confront the hazard at some job sites.

Paul then introduced Dr. Parkash Gill, who reported that he has made huge strides at his lab through the development of Veglin, a drug that treats the disease.

“I’m honored to be part of it,” Gill said. “It’s a worthy cause. I’m a cancer research doctor, so finding a treatment for patients really is a rewarding experience. When somebody is ill and they get better and they go home and never see you again, it’s wonderful.”

Gill said that patients are already seeing positive results at treatment advances. He said certain efforts have been completely successful.

“This medicine, we have given to a 78-year-old patient. Two or three years out now, there’s no cancer left and no side effects.”

Study Shows Asbestos Bans are Slow to Reduce Malignant Mesothelioma Rates

It has been more than 32 years since Denmark began in 1972 a ban on the use of asbestos insulation. In the late 1980s, Denmark also extended its ban to include other products containing asbestos.  And now, Denmark is one of 55 countries who have completely banned asbestos  products.  

But according to the new study of mesothelioma in Denmark, a steady rise in cases of this asbestos-linked cancer that began in the 1950s is still going on.

Mesothelioma and Asbestos

Mesothelioma is an aggressive cancer of the membranes around internal organs, most often the lungs or abdomen of the patient. It is a deadly disease that comes from exposure to the mineral asbestos.

Asbestos was made into a popular insulator and component in building materials worldwide back in the 1930s because it was readily available, cost little, and its very resistant to fire and corrosion.  The use of Asbestos in the building materials has put hundreds of thousands of workers at risk for mesothelioma.

Many countries, including Denmark, began in the 1950s and 60s to reduce their use of Asbestos products after it was linked to mesothelioma cancer as well as other unhealthy conditions.Pleural Mesothelioma Asbestos Lung Cancer

In a Danish study, the research team used data from the years 1943 through 2009 about mesothelioma stored at the Danish Cancer Registry. The researchers discovered the total incidence of mesothelioma continued to rise throughout the study period showing a peak of 1.76 cases per 100,000 people during the years 2008-2009.

The study also identified more cases in the Region of Northern Jutland in comparison to Southern Denmark.  While mesothelioma survival rate has improved slightly, the researchers noted that the  prognosis for getting mesothelioma continues to remain poor based on a median rate of 12.5 months survival for men and 13.3 months survival for women in the years 2008 through 2009.

In the Danish Medical Journal, the authors conclude:

“The national malignant mesothelioma incidence for men continues to increase, perhaps showing a slight tendency towards deceleration in the most recent decade,”

But they go on to say that:

“A clear long-term effect of the Danish asbestos ban has not yet occurred.”

Lag Time between Asbestos Exposure and Mesothelioma Diagnosis

With mesothelioma, the lag time  (latency period) between exposure to asbestos  and the development of the disease can be many decades.   It is during the latency period that the disease is very difficult to detect and diagnose, much less tracing its source.  Frequently mesothelioma cancer is diagnosed late in its development, and it tends to progress quickly.  Estimates from the World Health Organization show that since 1994, more than 92,000 people have died from mesothelioma cancer.


In Denmark, the national incidence of malignant mesothelioma cancer for men has been rising during the study period, reaching its total maximum of 1.76 in 2008-2009.  The incidence rate has remained relatively steady for women with a maximum of 0.5 in 1973 through 1977.

Northern Jutland and the surrounding region records the highest male incidence rate of mesothelioma since the late 1980s. The difference in relative risk for men in the Region of Southern Denmark and the Region of Northern Jutland was 1.53 during the period of 2008-2009.  The relative risk of developing mesothelioma cancer in the Region of Northern Jutland for the entire study period when collectively compared to the whole of Denmark was 1.38.  The study showed there are no notable regional differences for women at risk of developing mesothelioma.  Therefore, survival has slightly improved for both genders, but still remains poor with a median survival of 12.5 months for men and 13.3 months for women in the period of 2008 through 2009.


Within Denmark the national malignant mesothelioma incidence for men continues to increase, perhaps showing a slight tendency towards deceleration in the most recent decade. A measurable long-term mitigating effect of the Danish ban on asbestos products  has not yet occurred.

The original Danish study appeared in the Danish Medical Journal. (Skammeritz, E, et al, “Regional difference in incidence of malignant mesothelioma in Denmark“, March 2013, Danish Medical Journal.

The Mesothelioma Research Foundation of America has brought readers the most important and ground-breaking news on the causes, diagnosis and treatment of mesothelioma. All Surviving Mesothelioma news is gathered and reported directly from the peer-reviewed medical literature. Written for patients and their loved ones, Surviving Mesothelioma news helps families make more informed decisions.

Related Mesothelioma Cancer Press Releases

Possible New Treatment for Mesothelioma with MicroRNA Research

Today’s cancer cure researcher will frequently dig deep into the genetic makeup of the cancer disease to understand how it grows.  While in search for the most effective treatment to cure lung cancer and mesothelioma, and by genetically figuring that out, the researcher can stop the aggressive cancers by halting its growth.  Currently, Oncologists believe that a pair of microRNAs should be focused on for suppressing tumor growth in lung cancer.microRNA genetic research mesothelioma

microRNAs, or miRNAs, are tiny molecules found within cells that serve a function in primary biological processes.  These processes include organ development, fat metabolism, and cell proliferation.  A person remains healthy when miRNAs are functioning properly.  And, miRNAs can inhibit tumor growth when used as a therapeutic agent.

While miRFAs let-7 and miR-34 are known to be effective individually at stopping cancer growth, researchers at the Cancer Center at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (BIDMC) found that by combining these two molecules the pair are even more effective.

MicroRNA and Lung Cancer

Specifically, the miRNAs were unleashed on cancer pathways RAS and p53, two oncogenes, genes that have the potential to transform a cell into a cancer cell, known to lead to the aggressive growth of non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC).  The resulting two-molecule agent was found to be safe and effective in a lung cancer mouse model and demonstrated efficacy showing survival advantage.

According to one of the authors, Frank Slack, PhD (Director of the Institute for RNA Medicine in BIDMC):   “We know that miRNAs target many oncogenes.  We, therefore, hypothesized that a combination of two miRNAs could similarly offset resistance.  We have performed these timely in vivo studies using a liposomal microRNA delivery agent already in clinical trials, which could accelerate the translation of this combinatorial miRNA therapeutic approach into the clinic.”

Dr. Slack also said that currently there are no approved drugs that are effective for patients with RAS and p53 mutations. He mentioned reports that the K-RAS mutation is found in 25 percent of NSCLC patients while 50 percent are affected by the p53 mutation.

Pleural Mesothelioma

Pleural mesothelioma, an asbestos-caused cancer equally as aggressive as NSCLC, is diagnosed in close to 3,000 Americans each year.  And while microRNA research is focused on lung cancer, every new breakthrough in lung cancer research also brings new hope to patients with mesothelioma cancer.

The study was published in the Sept. 1 issue of Oncogene.

New Cancer Treatments Using T-Cell Genetically Modified Therapy

Incredible results within some clinical trials are showing up for cancer treatments where genetically modify patients’ blood cells are created to target specific cancer disease.

Based on two clinical trials, nearly 90% of patients had their leukemia disappear after receiving an experimental therapy using genetically modified  CAR T-cells.   These trials were sponsored sponsored by Novartis AG NOVN.VX -0.72% of Switzerland and Seattle-based biotech Juno Therapeutics Inc.  The results were published in December and February of 2014.

Both trials included just a few patients: 22 children in the Novartis trial and 16 adults in the Juno trial.  All patients had a common childhood cancer, acute lymphoblastic leukemia, and these patients each had exhausted standard cancer treatments.

According to Dr. Daniel DeAngelo: “CAR T-cells are probably one of the most exciting concepts and fields to come out in cancer in a very, very long time.”  Dr. DeAngelo is a Boston-based hematologist and associate professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School.  He was is not involved in either of the clinical trials.

In an interview with The Wall Street Journal, Dr. Usman Azam said “I think that a cure for cancers such as leukemia and lymphoma through a CAR technology is plausible.  Oour job is to get this into patients as soon as we feasibly can.”

Dr. Azam is the leader of cell and gene therapies at Novartis, and also heads the new unit Novartis created partly to speed the therapies’ time to market.

T-Cell CAR therapies combine the methods of genetic tweaking and “immunotherapy,” which uses the patient’s immune system to fight disease. The genetic part of the method involves extracting disease-fighting white blood cells called T-cells from a patient’s blood. The T-cells are then genetically modified, grown in a laboratory dish for around a short period of time, and then injected back into the patient.

Genetically Modified T-Cell cancer therapy

The laboratory dish process is where T-cells are combined with a disabled virus.  The virus enables the T-cells to produce Chimeric Antigen Receptors (CARs) that can recognize and target malignant proteins on the surface of cancer cells.

Novartis is funding the development of their treatment in partnership with the University of Pennsylvania, while Juno’s funding is in partnership with teams at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York, Seattle Children’s Hospital and Seattle’s Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center.

For patients seeking potential solutions to their cancer, knowing who is developing new treatments brings them to the opportunity to participate in Clinical Trials to get early results to cancer cure.  Therefore, while Novartis and Juno are ahead in the race to bring Genetically Modified T-Cell cancer therapy to the mass of cancer patients, there is also others developing similar therapy methods including  Pfizer Inc., PFE -0.04% Kite Pharma Inc. KITE -3.75% and Celgene Corp. CELG -1.14%  (in collaboration with Bluebird Bio Inc. BLUE +1.43% ).

Genetically modified T-Cell therapy deploying CARs is very new;  so there are unresolved questions about the method of using this kind of therapy.

How Long Does T-Cell CAR Treatments Last Keeping Cancer In Remission?

Because the current clinical trials treated only a small number of patients, as well as many of those patients whose cancer went into remission after the T-Cell CAR treatment where then eligible for subsequent stem-cell transplants (which can also increase survival), there is no absolute evidence and history to yet determine the longevity this treatment produces.

Additionally, there is a potential dangerous side effect for some patients called “cytokine-release syndrome,” an immune response while the therapy is working, can cause a sharp drop in blood pressure and surge in the patient’s  heart rate.

In March 2014, a Juno-backed Sloan-Kettering trial was held over the deaths of two patients.  That has caused a temporary halt in the T-Cell CAR study because of worries about the dangerous immune response and two deaths.

But, the clinical trial is again recruiting patients giving those with very advanced leukemia fewer modified cells, and excluding those patients with a risk of heart failure.

Can T-Cell CAR Treatments Be Created At Affordable Cost?

Due to the genetic engineering involved with T-Cell CAR therapy which is very complex to manufacture with each laboratory batch being a unique personalized treatment customized to a cancer patient’s own blood cells, the inability to mass-produce T-Cell CAR therapy questions the implication about how much companies will charge for the therapy.

Dr. Malcolm Brenner, director of the Center for Cell and Gene Therapy at the Texas Children’s Hospital in Houston, reminds us that “What we’re talking about here is a single, very expensive therapy that’s used once for a specific patient and is not generalizable.”

While Citigroup believes T-Cell CAR therapy could cost in excess of $500,000 per patient, which it notes is roughly the same cost for a stem cell transplant, most analysts still think it is too soon to approximate the future revenue or price for this therapy.

Again, Dr. DeAngelo clarifies:  “This technology needs to be widely developed and accessible to patients; if the cost is going to be a hindrance, it’s going to be a really sad day.”

For these reasons and more,  Pfizer is taking a different approach to this treatment with a focus on managing scalability and cost.  “We would like to take it to the next level, where CAR therapies become a more standardized, highly controlled treatment,” said Mikael Dolsten, Pfizer’s head of global research and development.

Pfizer wants to develop a generic T-Cell CAR therapy for use in any patient, potentially lowering its cost.  So, Pfizer is collaborating with French biotech Cellectis SA, ALCLS.FR +1.89%  on T-Cell CAR research that is currently preclinical.

Even if  T-Cell CAR treatments being developed might justify “outrageous” prices, it is probably that health-care payers as well as patients might object and fight back.  International director of health-care research at Société Générale, Stephen McGarry, asks:  “When you look at the initial data with the Novartis therapy, you’re getting cures in some kids—what do you charge for that?”

So, the drug companies and biotechs must overcome big hurdles to get their T-Cell CAR therapies into hospitals, and manage their potential cost.  And the biggest challenge may be the cost of the therapies.

Computed Tomography Screening for Mesothelioma Finds Asbestos-Related Lung Disease, According to Surviving Mesothelioma

Recent Tomography Research for Mesothelioma

The original study is published in the Journal of Computer Assisted Tomography (Carrillo, MC, et al, Low-Dose Computed Tomography (LDCT) in Workers Previously Exposed to Asbestos: Detection of parenchymal Lung Disease, July-August, 2013, Journal of Computer Assisted Tomography, pp. 626-630).

Recent research study reports that a lower dose of the same technology often used to diagnose mesothelioma may be able to help identify other asbestos-related lung diseases in people at risk for the deadly cancer.Tomography and Mesothelioma

Tomography in Canada for Mesothelioma

A study in Canada states that it tested the value of Low-Dose Computed Tomography (LDCT) for lung disease in asbestos-exposed workers.  The individuals were being screened for lung cancer or mesothelioma.  The Canadian research study focused on 315 baseline LDCT examinations of the chests of participants with at least 20 years of exposure to asbestos. Also included in the analysis were people who were found to have pleural plaques on X-ray (these are areas of calcification on the lung lining caused by asbestos).

The average age of the study participants was just under 62. All had been exposed to asbestos in an occupational setting for an average of 26.9 years. Forty-four percent of participants (140 people) had what were called parenchymal findings, or evidence of abnormalities in their lung tissue. Although such parenchymal findings do not necessarily indicate the presence of lung cancer or mesothelioma, they can be early evidence of a developing problem.

Study participants with parenchymal findings were like patients with mesothelioma in that they tended to be older (average age of 65.3) and have longer-than-average asbestos exposure (average of 29.73 years).  While many participants were also smokers, there was no statistical difference in parenchymal findings between those who smoked and those who did not.

The study concluded that LDCT can be a valuable way to detect early signs of lung disease in people who have no symptoms but are considered at high risk. Like lung cancer and mesothelioma, parenchymal lung diseases are most treatable when detected early. Unfortunately, mesothelioma is almost never found early because it tends not to produce any noticeable symptoms until it is in its later stages.

Because asbestos is the only known cause of mesothelioma, some have suggested the LDCT should be a regular part of health maintenance for all asbestos workers. The current study is further evidence of the value of the technology. Although mesothelioma is often treatment-resistant, it is more responsive to therapy before it has spread beyond the pleural lining and invaded the lungs or lymph nodes.

More Mesothelioma Cancer Press Releases

New Drug Targets Cancer Caused By Asbestos

May 26, 2014

Mesothelioma lung cancer can come to those persons who loved, and simply hugged their parent who worked around asbestos.  For example, now at age 45, Heather Von St. James recalls her father working as a building demolition employee around materials containing asbestos.  He would return home each day thoroughly covered by dirt and dust. She remembers how much she enjoyed hugging her father each night.mesothelioma-studies

By age 36, Heather was diagnosed with mesothelioma, the deadly yet to be cured cancer connected with exposure to asbestos particles.  Mesothelioma can take decades to develop and it often kills within months after symptoms appear. Heather was a new mother to a 3-month-old daughter, and she was told her only chance to live was by having a lung removed.

In 2013, more than 107,000 people died worldwide from mesothelioma.  However, Heather opted for the surgery instead, and removed the disease in time to stay alive.   According to Ms. St. James, “There’s a lot of people who don’t.”

Fortunately for other people with mesothelioma, or those that will discover they have the deadly disease, a new wave of drugs developed and being tested are giving new hope that mesothelioma cancer may be slowed or stopped.  Drug researchers, like Verastem Inc. (VSTM), GlaxoSmithKline Plc (GSK), and Dr. Parkash Gill of the USC Norris Comprehensive Cancer Center have announced that they are testing new cancer fighting drugs.

According to Dean Fennell, a lead researcher doing a trial study with a new drug by Verastem:

“[Mesothelioma] is not a curable cancer; it’s not a disease that can be wiped out completely by surgery as you see with lung cancer. Finding ways to stop that process or slow it down can have big implications for patient survival.”

Unlike lung cancers, Mesothelioma affects the cell tissues that cover the lungs.  It can also affect the tissues around the heart and abdominal organs.  Like all cancers, mesothelioma is treated by doctors with cutting the cancer tissue out, or irradiating it, but both methods sometimes have dangerous side effects.

New Drugs Offer New Hope to Replace Old Treatments

Verastem (based out of Cambridge, Massachusetts) has developed a drug (VS-6063) that is now in late-stage human testing. Consecutively, Glaxo (based out of London) has a compound that is being tried in combination with another product in an early-stage study. The drugs from these two companies each target an enzyme involved in cell movement that permits the cancer to spread.

The enzyme is a key marker of aggressive cancers and is overabundant in many tumors that spread quickly. Also, patients with an inactive gene called Neurofibromatosis 2 (NF2) respond well to the test drugs being developed where nearly half of mesothelioma patients have inactive NF2s.

In the U.S. and Europe, the VS-6063 treatment has been granted orphan drug status.  This means that Verastem with their VS-6063 product is given seven (7) years of exclusive marketing.  A Bloomberg report states that according to four (4) analysts, the VS-6063 drug could possibly generate $450 million in sales by 2019 if the product is cleared for public use.

Earliest Stage

Defactinib is the medicine that targets early stage cancer stem cells.  These are considered to be theorigin of the cancer and frequently are resistant to existing therapies.   The cancer stem cells for mesothelioma are known to be particularly resistant to chemotherapy.

Now, Mr. Dean Fennell does not have an economic connection with Verastem, nor is he a paid consultant to the company.  And yet, Mr. Fennell (who is chairman of thoracic medical oncology at the University of Leicester in England) stated during an interview:

“The hope is we can suppress the cancer in such a way that it becomes a more chronic disease, rather than have a disease that’s going to progress relentlessly and kill the patient”

Verastem with a market value of about $215 million is developing the drug assisted by several renowned pharmaceutical companies providing guidance. The development team includes former Genzyme Corp. CEO Henri Termeer; Human Genome Project leader Eric Lander; and Phillip Sharp, a Nobel laureate at Biogen Idec Inc.

Other Drug Combinations

Under a license from Pfizer Inc., AstraZeneca Plc of London is testing a drug called tremelimumab, on mesothelioma in a mid-stage trial. The treatment works differently from the other developmental drugs in that it helps the patient’s immune system to recognize and kill cancer cells.  According to

Carolyn Buser-Doepner (VP for tumor signaling at Glaxo, the U.K.’s biggest drugmaker), there are plans to combine a new drug GSK2256098 with some other medicines to potentially make cancer treatments more effective.  In one early-stage trial, it will be paired up with Glaxo’s Mekinist, which is approved for melanoma.  She said, “The pre-clinical data are very encouraging. We’re very excited about it.”

Boehringer’s Drug

A fourth drug, nintedanib from Germany’s Boehringer Ingelheim GmbH, is in early-stage testing for mesothelioma, according to a spokesman. Unlike the previous mentioned medicines, this one works by targeting proteins directly related to the formation of blood vessels that feed tumors.

According to the director of research at the British Lung Foundation, Noel Snell, the kind of research studies most likely to yield improvements in cancer care are those that investigate the nature of the disease itself.  Still, treatments being tested today on mesothelioma are most encouraging.

Snell said in a statement:

“It is shameful that this kind of fundamental research remains so drastically underfunded, and that the number of trials available for mesothelioma patients is still dwarfed so dramatically by the number available to other cancer patients.”

Dr. Gill and EphB4 Treatment

For several years, Dr. Parkash Gill of the USC Norris Comprehensive Cancer Center has proceeded with Phase I Clinical Trials with the new cancer fighting drug Eph-B4 made available to qualifying mesothelioma patients. With generous support from the Mesothelioma Research
Foundation of America
, the initial Phase I Trial Eph-B4 has been available to newly diagnosed patients who have not Ask Dr. Gill about the most recent clinical trials avaialbleundergone any conventional lung cancer treatment options, as well as those patients who have exhausted all other treatment options such as surgery and chemotherapy.

The results of these recent clinical trials have truly been exciting as Dr. Gill reports that Eph-B4 is showing great promise as a solo treatment, or in conjunction with other drugs like Alimta, Cisplatin and Carboplatin.

The research of Dr. Gill, in conjunction with similar studies by other Oncologists, have improved the understanding among Primary Care physicians about the detection process, and given them better options to offer patients with lung cancer including mesothelioma.

Eph-B4 as a Better Treatment

Treatments have also gotten better because we now understand two principles: a)molecular changes in lung cancer with very specific mutations; and b)medication (like Eph-B4) that is specific to addressing the treatment of only one cellular abnormality.

As Dr. Gill with the Mesothelioma Research Foundation of America continues the goal to make mesothelioma a disease of the past, our understanding of the human body immune system has also improved.    From this we have Eph-B4, an immune specific treatment that assists a patient with lung cancer to live longer with fewer side effects.

His studies have contributed to the evolution of mesothelioma cancer research over the last decade.  Collectively, researchers are producing a canonical story in which the range of research works has grown a consensus among recognized oncologists and Primary Care physicians of a “great” or “major” break through with the two principles mentioned above.  Basically, we can now identify subsets of cancer in a patient at the molecular level and bring a retardant treatment (immunity) to that cancer in those patients.  And this observation continues to this day to be repeated by many research projects.  More than ever before, researchers continue to identify specific cancer mutations and use similar drugs to shut down these cancers and improve patient survival.

Asbestos: The Miracle Fiber That Kills

Asbestos was named the “miracle fiber,” but has become the topic and issue of many lawsuits claiming losses as well as damages from illness caused by asbestos products.  It was commonly used in building materials such as insulation for years because it was cheap, abundant and heat-resistant.

Many countries have banned asbestos mining.  However, the World Health Organization estimates that as many as 125 million people worldwide continue to be exposed to asbestos either at work or in their homes because it continues to be mined and made into  products from in RussiaChina and India.

Unfortunately, mesothelioma cancer can lay dormant for as long as 50 years before spreading, which explains why rates have risen long after many countries have banned the asbestos.

New cases of mesothelioma cancer in the United Kingdom, where asbestos was restricted starting in the 1980s and outlawed fully in 2006, were 2,125 in 2012.  These numbers are expected to peak in 2015.  In the United States, the number of new cancer cases has been stable, hovering around 3,000 per year since 2000.  This stability was expected because of extensive efforts put into public education.  Still, a complete ban of Asbestos in the U.S. was overturned in the courts.  One of the world’s largest asbestos exporters, Canada, closed its remaining mines in 2011.

An Asian Asbestos Mesothelioma Cancer ‘Tsunami’

In Japan, asbestos was banned in 2006, the Japanese government pays the full cost of treatment for related illnesses, and rate of new cases of cancer are predicted to continue rising until 2027.  The director of a World Health Organization occupational health group, Ken Takahashi, has warned Asian governments to prepare themselves for an “asbestos tsunami.”

Again, Dean Fennell reminds us:

 “In the early ’70s, this was an incredibly rare disease. Now my clinic is full of patients with mesothelioma. Because the rates are increasing, we have a real need now to identify effective treatment.”

A cure for mesothelioma can not be found fast enough.  Still, there are survivors like Heather Von St. James, who breaths with great effort during Minnesota winters with her one remaining lung, and she volunteers her time to be a coach to other mesothelioma patients.   By her personal experience with mesothelioma, she wants other victims of mesothelioma to understand:

 “If they can keep it under control,
that’s the first hope.”


Second Round of Chemotherapy May Not Help

According to a study by Turkish researchers, a second round of chemotherapy may not do much good for mesothelioma patients whose cancer returns after first-line treatment.

Chemotherapy CRS-207 mesothelioma vaccinationTheir findings are based on an analysis of 51 pleural mesothelioma patients from a Turkish hospital. All patients in the study were initially treated with chemotherapy, the standard first-line treatment for mesothelioma. But, when their mesothelioma tumors began to grow again several months later, some patients were treated with second-line chemotherapy (SLCT) while others had best supportive care (BSC), which includes symptom management only.

Chemotherapy Standard Is Tough

While chemotherapy is a standard first-line treatment for mesothelioma, an aggressive cancer of the mesothelial membranes, there is disagreement within the medical community as to whether or not second-line chemotherapy is effective. While it can sometimes slow the progression of mesothelioma, chemotherapy is also hard on the body and causes a range of dangerous side effects. For this reason, only the healthiest patients are even considered candidates for second-line chemotherapy.

Chemotherapy Survival Rates

In the Turkish study, patients who had chemotherapy as both a first- and second-line treatment had a median overall survival of 20.3 months. These patients had a median survival of 5.9 months after the end of their first-line chemotherapy. Patients who had only BSC when their mesothelioma began to grow again had a median overall survival of 14.7 months. The median overall survival for these patients from the end of their first-line chemotherapy treatment was 4.7 months.

While the figures seem to show that the second-line chemotherapy patients had better outcomes than those receiving BSC, the authors of the study say the differences between the two are not statistically significant. In addition, the fact that second-line chemotherapy is usually reserved for select patients may also contribute to the apparent skew of the results. They conclude, Our results do not support the proposal that second-line chemotherapy could be effective in patients with malignant pleural mesothelioma.”

While such studies can help guide mesothelioma treatment planning, treatment decisions are made on a case-by-case basis, based on a range of criteria. The original study appears in the Asian Pacific Journal for Cancer Prevention. (Mutlu, H, et al,
Secondline chemotherapy versus best supportive care in patients with malignant pleural mesothelioma: a retrospective study
Asian Pacific Journal of Cancer Prevention
pp. 3887-3889

No Short Cut to Accomplishments with Stem-Cell Therapy: Research Studies Might Get Retracted

Immunotherapy cancer stem-cell

Some recent research that specified a faster and simpler method for making stem-cell s just might get retracted because one of the two scientists involved in the research project has expressed doubts about the premises regarding their experiments.

It was Teruhiko Wakayama, a researcher at the University of Yamanashi, Japan, who stated he was no longer certain about the premise of the data he used.  During an interview with Japan’s largest international news service, NHK World, Mr. Wakyama said his research studies should be withdrawn from review.  His comments with the NHK news service emphasize the peer pressure that medical researchers experience with Japan’s push into stem-cell science subsequent to the Nobel Prize won by Shinya Yamanaka from KyotoUniversity in 2012.

Early Stem-Cell Therapy Developments

Basically, during an embryo’s early stages of development, stem cells are pluripotent, which mean they can become any type of tissue in a patient’s body.   As the embryo continues to develop, the stem-cell s begin to specialize by differentiation into units for the body’s different tissue structures.

There are currently several ways to regenerate pluripotent stem cells, including one method that uses embryos and another method that reprograms matured stem cells by inserting genes.

However, the controversial studies submitted by Mr. Wakyama discovered that ordinary cells taken from newborn mice could be transformed into stem-cell s without adding genes.   Instead, researchers (led by Haruko Obokata at the RikenCenter for Developmental Biology) shocked the cells with a dose of “sublethal stress” like mechanical force to trigger the transformation into stem-cell s.

According to Nissim Benvenisty, director of the stem-cell therapy laboratory at HebrewUniversity in Jerusalem:

“The study surprised me when it came out because it contradicted the common sense that we have acquired so far in the field.  At the same time, this is the beauty of the scientific world, in which editors allow publication of papers that contradict common sense to allow novel data to be discussed and understood.”

Global Pressure for Stem-Cell Therapy Accomplishments

Global competition within the medical science field is well recognized.  In 2013, Japan’s Health Ministry cleared the way for the world’s first clinical trial with stem-cell s made using a separate technique from Shinya  Yamanaka, the Nobel Prize winner from KyotoUniversity.   And, Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe aims to cement his country’s leadership in the field of Stem-Cell therapy research.  He has pushed through bills that fast-track regulatory approval for cell-based products and set new research guidelines.

Regarding the research and paper submitted by Teruhiko Wakayama,  Japan’s Riken research center  (a government-funded organization) will continue an investigation  of the two studies published January 2014 in the journal, Nature, and will consider its options including retracting them from publication.

Still, the word is out.. There might be a faster and simpler method for making stem cells, and influencing stem-cell therapy.

Dr. Gill Research

Enhanced by Zemanta