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Mesothelioma Research News

As mesothelioma incidence rates have increased in the past 20 years, greater attention is being paid to the life threatening disease. Recent mesothelioma research news has shed new light on the rare form of cancer and the latest methods being tested to help treat the disease. Here are the basics on some recent news about current and evolving mesothelioma research.

Recent Mesothelioma Research News
In January of 2004 the Mesothelioma Applied Research Foundation (MARF), the national nonprofit organization whose mission is to eradicate mesothelioma as a life-ending disease, received a major private gift of $200,000 to be used toward research into into effective treatments for mesothelioma.

"Patience is not a virtue for those suffering from mesothelioma," said the donor, Roger G. Worthington, a lawyer who represents mesothelioma victims and their families. "They need answers, and help, right now. With this contribution, we send a message of hope that MARF is working toward the solution."

MARF has received thousands of donations from individual patients and loved ones whose lives have been tragically affected by the disease. But among major donors, Worthington is the largest, having now donated over $600,000 to MARF to support mesothelioma research. "Our vision is that like Worthington, all the involved parties will share the mantle of responsibility to cure this disease," Hahn says.

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In February 2004 the first drug regimen that has been proven to help patients with the asbestos-related cancer live longer was approved by the Food and Drug Administration. The drug, Alimta, by Eli Lilly and Company, was FDA approved for use with cisplatin for the treatment of malignant pleural mesothelioma. Cisplatin is a standard chemotherapy agent and Alimta is expected to aid in chemotherapy treatment.

Malignant pleural mesothelioma is "one of the most devastating kinds of cancer a person can have," said Paolo Paoletti, M.D., vice president of oncology clinical research at Lilly. "This is a cancer that is lethal, painful and debilitating."

Estimates are between 10,000 and 15,000 people worldwide are diagnosed annually with malignant pleural mesothelioma, and that number is increasing. Most people don’t find out that they have malignant pleural mesothelioma until the disease has progressed to an advanced stage when treatment with surgery or radiation is not an option.

Alimta/cisplatin was compared to cisplatin alone in a trial of 448 patients with malignant pleural mesothelioma from 19 countries. Results showed overall survival was increased 30 percent (12.1 months for Alimta/cisplatin versus 9.3 months for cisplatin alone), and that 50.3 percent of patients treated with Alimta/cisplatin were alive a year later compared to 38.0 percent treated with cisplatin alone. Both the median and one-year rate of survival were statistically significant.

"For the first time ever we have proof that a chemotherapeutic regimen helps patients with malignant pleural mesothelioma live longer -- that's a big deal," said Claude Denham, M.D. a study co-investigator for US Oncology and a medical oncologist with Texas Oncology in Dallas. In addition, according to research findings, there was an improvement in lung function (forced vital capacity) on the Alimta/cisplatin arm compared to the cisplatin (or control) arm.

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In October 2004, a bill, which would have required companies that manufactured or used asbestos to contribute money to a fund to help victims of asbestos, was put to rest. The bill proposed that, in exchange for the payments, the companies would be shielded from civil liability. It met with high opposition and struggled in congress until it was finally voted down.

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In May 2005, the U.S. senate embraced the need to fund research for detection, prevention, treatment and cure of mesothelioma by proposing SB 852. SB 852 is the proposed Fairness in Asbestos Injury Resolution Act, recently amended to inclue a National Mesothelioma Research and Treatment Program.

The bill would give $29 million per year for 10 years to mesothelioma research. Of the $29 million, the asbestos trust fund contributors would donate $17 million per year, and the government run National Institutes of Health would give $12 million per year. The program would also give $2.5 million per year each to ten national medical centers for research on the detection, prevention, treatment and cure of mesothelioma. The centers would be chosen based on a competitive peer review process that would evaluate things like the centers’ track record for exemplary laboratory and clinical research, geographic distribution, proximity to high incidence areas, and affiliation with Veterans Administration hospitals.

The program would also establish a mesothelioma registry and a tissue bank. The registry would help collect data on patients’ symptoms, treatment, outcomes and quality of life and so far the United States doesn’t have a system for tracking the disease. The Tissue Bank would help researchers study blood and tissue in the effort to unlock the mysteries on how to control this deadly cancer.

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Mesothelioma research and legislature is a hot topic in the news and this site will be periodically updated with the latest mesothelioma research news as it develops.

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