Milestone in the Quest for Better Mesothelioma Treatments

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Department of Defense Begins to Address Service-Related Asbestos Cancer; Mesothelioma Foundation Sees Thousand-Fold Return on Its Research and Advocacy Investments.

The Mesothelioma Applied Research Foundation applauds the Department of Defense (DoD) for beginning to address the critical need to develop treatments for mesothelioma. Mesothelioma is an aggressive, extremely painful tumor caused by asbestos exposure. Most of the medical and disease research communities have long regarded it with a self-fulfilling defeatism as untreatable, deadly and hopeless.

Since 1992, the DoD has been charged with promoting research on diseases related to military service. Since then it has funded over $5.4 billion for a range of diseases – some only tangentially related to military service, but it completely omitted mesothelioma research even though asbestos was used all over military installations and vehicles, especially Navy ships. In fact, one third of those who currently die from mesothelioma were exposed to asbestos on U.S Navy ships and shipyards. These are the veterans who served in the defense of our country and the hard working men and women who helped build our fleet.

Therefore, since 2004 the Mesothelioma Applied Research Foundation and its passionate arsenal of patients, caregivers, bereaved family members, researchers, doctors, union representatives and concerned mesothelioma attorneys have advocated that Congress direct the DoD to include mesothelioma research in its portfolio. They have met personally with their elected government officials at the Foundation’s annual Washington, D.C. Advocacy Day and in their home states, testified at hearings, prepared educational materials, and participated in the Foundation’s grassroots advocacy through countless emails, letters and phone calls.

In 2007 the Senate Defense Appropriations Subcommittee acted, directing DoD to fund mesothelioma research through its Peer Reviewed Medical Research Program (PRMRP). As a result, in early 2008 the DoD awarded its first mesothelioma research grant ever, a $1.4 million award to Courtney Broaddus, M.D. for exciting work to understand the role of macrophage induced inflammation in mesothelioma.

The meso community gratefully appreciated this important first step. But 38 meso researchers had applied. DoD’s funding only 3% of the applications did not comply with the Senate’s directive that DoD begin to seriously address this critical disease. So the Foundation continued its vigorous advocacy. This year, the DoD took its responsibility more seriously, and has just announced awards totaling several million dollars for three important mesothelioma projects: Harvey Pass, M.D. and Margaret E. Huflejt, PhD. will investigate new markers for early detection of mesothelioma and will identify new therapeutic targets. And Lee Krug, M.D. will lead a multi-site clinical trial of a promising new therapy based on the WT-1 vaccine, which will directly impact patients and offer them new hope.

Doctors Broaddus, Krug and Pass have all been supported by Meso Foundation grants in their earlier work, and they demonstrate the exponential impact of the Foundation’s seed funding. For example, in 2006, the Foundation awarded $100,000 to Dr. Krug to support the first phase of his WT-1 vaccine trial. The success of that trial led to his recent DoD award, yielding a 2000% rate of return on the Foundation’s initial funding investment.

Thanks to the Foundation’s advocacy, the DoD is beginning to seriously address mesothelioma. The Meso Foundation will continue to advocate that DoD rigorously pursue research to develop mesothelioma treatments, for the sake of our nation’s veterans and other heroes from so many walks of life who are impacted by this disease.

The Mesothelioma Applied Research Foundation is the national non-profit dedicated to finding a cure for mesothelioma by funding mesothelioma research, educating and supporting mesothelioma patients, and advocating for a national commitment to end the mesothelioma tragedy. More information is available on the Foundation’s website at http://www.curemeso.org.

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