Meso Foundation to Recognize Families for Leading the Quest for a Cure for Mesothelioma

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The Meso Foundation honors three families who, through individual gifts and fundraising, funded $300,000 of critically-needed mesothelioma research in 2009.

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As a mesothelioma patient, Ken was acutely aware of the desperate need to find a cure for this devastating disease.

On June 11, 2010 as part of this year’s International Symposium on Malignant Mesothelioma, the Mesothelioma Applied Research Foundation (Meso Foundation) will honor three families for their tireless work in promoting advances in mesothelioma research. The Bendix family, the Ruble family and the Sterling family have endured tremendous personal losses at the hand of mesothelioma. Despite knowing that their loved ones could not personally benefit from the results of their work, they banded together with friends and communities, to ensure hope for future generations, by funding three critical research projects through the Meso Foundation’s Research Program.

Mesothelioma is a disease known among the medical community as extremely aggressive, virtually untreatable, and incurable. It is a cancer caused by exposure to asbestos, a carcinogenic fiber often present in various work and military environments, construction and manufacturing trades, as well as in millions of homes across America. Most of those diagnosed with mesothelioma face a survival prognosis of less than one year. For decades, the need for mesothelioma research was ignored, leaving patients with only a few marginally-effective treatments. Due to mesothelioma’s latency period of thirty to fifty years post-exposure, this disease often manifests long after one’s service in the Navy or occupation in the trades. Also, contrary to popular belief, asbestos is still present in our environment and has not been banned. Thus, research to find effective treatments and cure mesothelioma is crucial in stopping the suffering caused by this disease.

In California, Ken Bendix, with his wife Alexa, their two daughters Aria and Bella, and his parents Don and Betty, dedicated the brief time before his passing to raising $100,000 for mesothelioma research. As a mesothelioma patient, Ken was acutely aware of the desperate need to find a cure for this devastating disease.

In December 2009, through fundraising events and contributions from friends and family members, this devoted family funded the Ken Bendix Research Grant. The grant, awarded to Dr. J. Andrea McCart at the Toronto General Research Institute, aims to develop a novel virotherapy strategy to detect and treat malignant peritoneal mesothelioma. “Although Ken had not envisioned a grant as an egotistical tribute to himself, it is proper in his memory that his name be attached to this worthy cause,” says Ken Bendix’s father, Don.

In Florida, Erica and Michael Ruble, children of the late Lance S. Ruble, were inspired to dedicate a grant to their father while attending the Meso Foundation’s Symposium in June 2009. They successfully organized numerous events and launched several fundraising letter campaigns. Their impressive $100,000 in contributions funded the Lance S. Ruble Memorial Grant. This grant was awarded to Dr. Prasad Adusumilli of Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, whose work aims to train the body’s own immune cells to selectively kill mesothelioma cells, without the side-effects currently associated with traditional mesothelioma treatments.

"Our family chose this research project because my dad had such a hard time with the traditional approaches to mesothelioma," says Erica Ruble. "We hope that this approach will enhance a patient's immune system and enable people to live longer without suffering serious side effects."

In Pennsylvania, Peggy Sterling single-handedly funded the John Sterling Memorial Grant to honor her late husband. This grant was awarded to Dr. Nicholas Heintz of the University of Vermont and State Agricultural College, whose research goal is to identify ways to enhance the activity of Thiostrepton—an anti-tumor antibiotic that inhibits a key protein responsible for growth and survival of mesothelioma cells.

“We are entirely grateful to all of the researchers who are passionate about developing new lines of treatment for mesothelioma. John believed in a cure and, during his lifetime, he supported the Mesothelioma Applied Research Foundation. Naming this grant in honor of his life means very much to our family,” says Peggy Sterling.

The grant naming program was established by the Mesothelioma Applied Research Foundation to create a direct path of participation in the research process for individuals and families affected by mesothelioma. In the past, grants have been funded by the Rehbeck family, Craig and Shelly Kozicki, Wendy Stoeckler, and Carol Hayes.

The Mesothelioma Applied Research Foundation is the national non-profit dedicated to finding a cure for mesothelioma by funding research, providing education and support for patients, and leading advocacy efforts to increase federal funding for mesothelioma research. The Foundation hosts the annual International Symposium on Malignant Mesothelioma (June 10-12, 2010), which unites doctors, researchers, patients and families, legal advocates, union representatives, and other affected and concerned individuals to share information and advance mesothelioma research. For more information, visit curemeso.org.

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