Friday, August 30, 2013

New Immunotherapy Compound Anti-CD40 Slows Mesothelioma Tumor Growth After Recurrence

In the September 2013 issue of The Journal of Immunotherapy, researchers from the Western University of Australia published results of a study using a promising new immunotherapy compound and its effects on reoccurring mesothelioma tumors in lab mice. Immunotherapy is based on the body's natural defense system, which protects us against a variety of diseases.

Researchers tested the effects of anti-CD40, an antibody which increases the body’s production of tumor-fighting T-cells, on mesothelioma tumors in mice. Researchers first removed the mesothelioma tumor, then re-implanted mesothelioma cells to mimic reoccurrence of disease. At the occurrence of established regrowth, the anti-CD40 was administered to the tumors through the bloodstream, to the area surrounding the tumor, or directly to the tumor. The results showed slowed metastatic growth and inhibited local recurrence, in addition to improved survival from metastasis.

Mesothelioma has an especially high rate of recurrence even when treated with a multi-modality approach utilizing surgery, chemotherapy, and/or radiation. Immunotherapy offers great promise as an emerging option in cancer treatment, but it is still fairly new. Some types of immunotherapy have now become part of standard cancer treatment, while others remain experimental. An enormous amount of research remains to be done before the findings can be widely applied.

View the abstract here.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Wall Street Journal Continues to Side with Asbestos Companies on Allegations of Asbestos Trust Fraud

The Wall Street Journal is continuing its practice of spreading asbestos trust fraud propaganda in its recent piece, “Exposing Asbestos Fraud.” The piece alleges that the judiciary is standing in the way of justice and that a judge ruling against a corporation while keeping the proceedings closed to the public is proof that there is fraud occurring in the asbestos trust system.

WSJ claims that North Carolina Federal Judge George Hodges is being “pushed” by plaintiffs’ attorneys to force Garlock Sealing Technologies to deposit an additional $1.3 billion into a bankruptcy trust for future asbestos claims, while Garlock feels that the $125 million trust they were forced to set up in 2010, after filing for bankruptcy in an attempt to secure immunity from lawsuits filed by persons injured by its asbestos products, should be more than enough to suffice.

WSJ asserts that plaintiffs’ attorneys filing claims with multiple bankruptcy trusts while pursuing others in court is a scam. WSJ, asbestos manufacturers and industry-backed government representatives like to call this practice “double-dipping.” Asbestos manufacturers feel that even if a plaintiff was exposed to asbestos through use of their products, if they were also exposed through use of another manufacturer’s product, they should only receive compensation for their deadly disease from one. This is not a scam, and there is nothing fraudulent about it, the majority of people who suffer from asbestos related disease were exposed to a wide variety of asbestos products from different manufacturers which ultimately caused their disease.

Lest we forget, the companies who manufactured and sold asbestos containing products up into the 1970s and 1980s knew for decades the harm caused by asbestos and kept it hidden, paying “scientists” and “industrial experts” to create false scientific articles, reports and evidence that asbestos was safe. Very much like what the Canadian government and asbestos industry were doing up into 2012, while Russia and other countries with thriving asbestos industries continue this practice today.

WSJ also criticizes Judge Hodges for closing his courtroom to the public during proceedings. WSJ and the industry would have you believe that keeping settlement information between different defendants confidential is deceitful. The truth is that settlements are the result of defendants deciding that the risk of going to trial before jury is too high, and it would be more beneficial for them to settle outside of court.

WSJ has previously expressed ardent  support of the deceitfully clever bill known as the Furthering Asbestos Claim Transparency Act, the FACT Act, which would require asbestos trusts to file quarterly reports disclosing personal settlement information on claimants in an attempt to limit the payouts of other defendants, who are also found liable for causing a victim’s exposure. WSJ reported on rampant fraud occurring in the trust system, the sponsors of the bill even quoted WSJ’s “investigative reporting” as evidence at the bill’s hearing, but as we discussed here, both parties failed to present any actual evidence of fraud.

WSJ continues to claim that fraud is occurring in the trust system but still offers no actual evidence. They state that Garlock was forced into bankruptcy because of fraudulent claims, again with no evidentiary support. If Garlock was forced into bankrupty, it was due to being tried and found guilty for causing harm to thousands of people in court systems all over the country. WSJ also alleges that Judge Hodges’ ruling against Garlock must be wrong simply because they are not privy to the transcripts. WSJ seems to believe that they should be able rule over these cases, and it’s a good thing they do not, as they have made it clear who they think the real victims are. 

Friday, August 16, 2013

Drugs Used to Lower Cholesterol May Prove To Be Viable Mesothelioma Treatment Option

Researchers at Chiba University in Japan recently examined the response of mesothelioma cells when treated with a combination of two statin drugs commonly used to lower cholesterol and paired with a form of vitamin E called gamma tocotrienol (y-T3). In some studies, statin drugs have been shown to reduce the risk of ovarian and liver cancer.

T3 administered alone had previously been shown to have a negative effect on mesothelioma cells, but when researchers combined with the drugs Zocor and Lipitor, cell growth was further inhibited and rate of mesothelioma cell death was increased. The researchers believe the higher rate of cell death is a result of the statin drugs activating a protein called caspase 3, which plays a vital role in cell death and only occurred in the presence of the statins.  

The combination has not yet been tested in humans, but research of this kind will prove to be revolutionary in the search for alternative and better treatment options for mesothelioma.

View the Abstract here.

Friday, August 9, 2013

The Chemical Safety Improvement Act of 2013 - Yet Another Obstacle to Banning Asbestos in the U.S

The Chemical Safety Improvement Act of 2013 (S. 1009) (CSIA) is a bill currently before congress. The legislation is designed to reform the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) of 1976. Many public health advocates who support TSCA reform do not support the CSIA as it is currently written, believing that the chemical industry is behind the draft legislation.

On July 31, 2013, Linda Reinstein, President of the Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization, and a long-time leader in the effort to ban asbestos in the U.S., testified before the Senate Environmental and Public Works Committee (EPWC) at a hearing in support of TSCA reform. According to Ms. Reinstein, the CSIA as currently drafted would do more harm to public health and the environment than good. As detailed in the ADAO position paper, the current version of the CSIA would make it virtually impossible for the EPA to phase out or ban harmful substances already on the market. This, of course, would create yet another obstacle to banning asbestos. As Ms. Reinstein explained in her testimony, even though the World Health Organization, International Labor Organization, Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and our Surgeon General all agree that there is no safe level of exposure to asbestos, usage of asbestos in some industries in the U.S. has increased.

The CSIA, as currently drafted, places the burden on the EPA to find that a substance is unsafe, rather than requiring chemical companies to prove that substances are safe. The CSIA also lacks deadlines which would require the EPA to quickly to assess and restrict the use of harmful substances. The bill would retain the unworkable standard of review in the TSCA which ultimately prevented EPA from being able to ban asbestos in 1989. Lastly, and probably the most far-reaching, is the language in the bill that would undercut a state’s ability to enforce existing laws or pass new ones against harmful substances.

A Los Angeles Times editorial states that TSCA has been, for all intents and purposes, out of commission since the EPA lost a lawsuit more than 20 years ago involving asbestos regulation. Shortly after the EPA issued a ban on asbestos in 1989, under authority of the TSCA, trade associations that represented U.S. and Canadian asbestos companies filed suit and a federal appeals court overturned the ban in 1991, ruling that the EPA failed to muster substantial evidence to support its rule to ban the substance.

In the 37 years that TSCA has been in effect, only 200 of the 85,000 industrial chemicals in use, not including pesticides, have been tested or regulated. The LA times piece goes onto explain that, under the bill, once the EPA designates a chemical as “high priority” for regulation, the chemical would then be under federal jurisdiction, and any state laws governing it would cease to have any authority. The EPA could then leave the chemical untested and unregulated for years. A clear gift to the chemical industry.

The website Beyond Pesticides published a letter from nine state Attorneys General to the EPWC expressing their, “deep concerns about the unduly broad preemption language proposed in CSIA.” Legislation needs to respect the rights of the states to protect their residents when the federal government fails to do so.

Science, not industry influence, must drive policy, writes John Replogle in a commentary published in the digital journal Roll Call. The onus must be on chemical manufacturers to demonstrate that the chemicals they use are safe, and the federal government must have the regulatory tools and financial resources to make this so.

Supporters of the Chemical Safety Improvement Act would have us believe it will enhance public safety and promote innovation, economic growth, and job creation by American manufacturers. As the bill is currently written, individual states would lose the power to protect their citizens and local environments from dangerous chemicals and hazardous materials, such as asbestos. Meaningful legislation needs to be passed that strengthens the protections for the people of this country by improving existing safeguards, not stripping them away.

Along with her testimony, Ms. Reinstein hand-delivered a petition with over 2,500 signatures to ban asbestos use in the United States. You can sign the petition here.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Australian Asbestos Diseases Research Institute Announces Clinical Trial for New Mesothelioma Drug

The Australian Asbestos Diseases Research Institute (ADRI) has announced a clinical trial for a newly developed drug therapy in the treatment of mesothelioma. Researchers at the ADRI conducted a three year study focused on the genetic characteristics and the gene expression and found that a particular family of microRNAs was greatly decreased in mesothelioma.

MicroRNAs are small genes involved in the regulation of cell and tumor biology, inhibition of this particular type of microRNAs is commonly found in other types of cancers but has never been linked to mesothelioma.

Researchers treated human derived mesothelioma tumors in mice with a synthetic version of microRNA, the drug TargomiRs, in an attempt to bring the microRNA levels back up to normal. The drug was administered by way of minicells, a new drug delivery system developed by biotech company EnGenIC, which uses antibodies to guide the drug to the tumor site. The results were remarkable. Not only was tumor growth inhibited, but surrounding healthy tissue was unaffected.

ADRI hopes to begin a two phase clinical trial beginning at the end of this year. The first phase will take about a year to complete and will focus on the distribution of TargomiRs in a small number of patients. The second phase will determine the optimal and safe dose of the experimental therapy.

The study will target patients who express specific types of epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) gene mutations, the biomarker researchers plan to use for the antibody-directed TargomiR delivery. In fact, the FDA recently approved a new drug in the treatment of certain types of lung cancer that express EGFR, which could possibly be a viable treatment for mesothelioma patients.

"Treatment options for this asbestos-related cancer are very limited and effective new therapies are urgently needed." says Professor van Zandwijk, Director of the Asbestos Diseases Research Institute. "I think the whole concept is sound and we feel very reassured. While our preclinical research was confined to mesothelioma, we hope that this new approach to cancer treatment will also inhibit other tumor types."

This research was possible thanks to a donation of $1.2 million dollars from the family of Andrew Lloyd, an Australian man who passed away in August of 2011 from malignant mesothelioma. Further funding is necessary to continue research over the next 2-3 years to determine if the TargomiRs therapy will be a viable treatment option.

The ADRI was established by the Asbestos Diseases Research Foundation, a charitable, not-for-profit foundation which aims to improve the prevention, the diagnosis and treatment of asbestos-related diseases and to provide a better future for all those Australians unfortunately exposed to asbestos.