With The Worldwide Incidence Of Mesothelioma Increasing, A Commentator Says That Failure Of New Possible Medical Treatment “adds to this dreary scenario”

From the Abstract for a recent medical journal article about a possible mesothelioma treatment, we get this disappointing news:

In this randomised trial, vorinostat given as a second-line or third-line therapy did not improve overall survival and cannot be recommended as a therapy for patients with advanced malignant pleural mesothelioma.

To read more, see “Vorinostat in patients with advanced malignant pleural mesothelioma who have progressed on previous chemotherapy (VANTAGE-014): a phase 3, double-blind, randomised, placebo-controlled trial”, which was published online by The Lancet yesterday, March 19, 2015 (“Online First”).

Related to that article is is this commentary piece, “A lesson from vorinostat in pleural mesothelioma”, by Marina Chiara Garassino, who is affiliated with the Clinical Trial Unit, Istituto di Candiolo, FPO-IRCCS, Turin, Italy.

From that item we get this dire assessment of the current medical situation as regards treatment options for mesothelioma patients:

Although the worldwide incidence of mesothelioma is increasing because of asbestos exposure, there are few treatment options in development for this lethal disease. Surgery is no longer regarded as a standard treatment because the disease is already systemic at onset, the role of radiotherapy is at best controversial, and systemic treatment plateaued in 2002 with the approval of pemetrexed. The negative results of the VANTAGE-014 study by Lee Krug and colleagues — a phase 3 trial comparing vorinostat, a histone-deacetylase inhibitor, with placebo, with median overall survival as the primary objective — adds to this dreary scenario.   [footnotes omitted]

Certainly we hope there comes better news about what can be done for people diagnosed with mesothelioma sooner rather than later.

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Selected Mesothelioma Patients May Benefit From New Medical Treatment With Brentuximab Vedotin, An Antibody–Drug

On the Molecular Cancer Therapeutics medical journal website we found this encouraging article about a new mesothelioma treatment, “CD30 Is a Potential Therapeutic Target in Malignant Mesothelioma”.

From the Abstract from this early-online February 2015 medical journal article, which is relatively “technical”, we get this specific information about the most recent development in mesothelioma therapy:

CD30 is a cytokine receptor belonging to the TNF superfamily (TNFRSF8) that acts as a regulator of apoptosis….  There have been sporadic reports of CD30 expression in nonlymphoid tumors, including malignant mesothelioma. Given the remarkable success of brentuximab vedotin, an antibody–drug conjugate directed against CD30 antigen, in lymphoid malignancies, we undertook a study to examine the incidence of CD30 in mesothelioma and to investigate the ability to target CD30 antigen in mesothelioma….  Our studies validate the presence of CD30 antigen in a subgroup of epithelial-type mesothelioma tumors and indicate that selected mesothelioma patients may derive benefit from brentuximab vedotin treatment.

While our newly discovered treatment for mesothelioma may be limited to only certain patients, any advancement in caring for patients with this asbestos-related cancer is welcomed news.

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Another Mesothelioma Treatment From Verastem (VS-5584) Is Given “Orphan Drug” Status By FDA In Early 2015

In mid-February 2015 we learned that a new treatment for malignant mesothelioma will be available in the US.

From this article, “FDA grants orphan drug designation to VS-5584 for mesothelioma”, we get the following information:

The FDA granted orphan drug designation to VS-5584 for the treatment of mesothelioma, according to a press release from the drug’s manufacturer….

“This is an important regulatory milestone for Verastem and, together with our European orphan medicinal product designation, will facilitate our global development of VS-5584 to help improve the available treatment options for patients suffering from this highly aggressive cancer,” Robert Forrester, president and CEO of Verastem, said in a press release. “We look forward to taking full advantage of the opportunities that orphan designation allows in order to bring this potential new treatment option to patients as rapidly as possible.”

Verastem is currently conducting a phase 1 study to evaluate the combination of VS-5584 and VS-6063 (defactinib) in patients with relapsed or progressive malignant pleural mesothelioma. Preclinical data demonstrated synergistic activity of VS-5584 and defactinib in mesothelioma models in vitro and in vivo.

We have reported on Verastem’s earlier mesothelioma treatment, VS-6063, over the past couple of years in these articles:

Of course we will continue to monitor developments announced by Veratstem and other medical companies working on new treatments for mesothelioma.

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The Basic Facts About Malignant Mesothelioma: Asbestos Cancer with Three Types; Diagnosis and Staging Information; General Medical Treatment Options

Malignant mesothelioma, or cancer of the mesothelium, is a disease in which cells in the mesothelium become abnormal and divide uncontrollably. The abnormal cells can metastasize and spread to nearby tissues and organs, resulting in malignant mesothelioma.

In more detail, mesothelioma affects the lining or covering of the affected body part — such as (1) the lung, if it is pleural mesothelioma, or (2) the abdomen, if it is peritoneal mesothelioma, or (3) the heart, if it is pericardial mesothelioma. Each of these three different types of mesothelioma will sometimes be called just “meso”, for short.

Mesothelioma is a rare cancer. Approximately 2,000 to 3,000 cases are diagnosed each year, but the incidence rates are increasing. Mesothelioma occurs more often in men than in women, and a major risk factor is a history of occupational exposure to asbestos. The risk of developing mesothelioma increases with heavier asbestos exposure, but there have been cases of individuals with relatively minimal asbestos dust exposure many years ago later developing mesothelioma. Family members of asbestos workers are also at increased risk for developing mesothelioma if exposed to asbestos dust brought home on clothing.

For more about the basic facts of malignant mesothelioma, see:


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Furthering Asbestos Claim Transparency (FACT) Act: Back Again In 2015, And Still Unfair To US Mesothelioma Victims Who Are Entitled To Legal Compensation

About two years ago we posted this article, “Protect Asbestos Victims: Reasons To Oppose H.R. 982, the Furthering Asbestos Claim Transparency (FACT) Act of 2013″.

Now at the start of 2015 we have to have to report that the FACT Act is back.

As it was before, this pending legislation would make it more difficult for asbestos victims to receive a “day in court” and receive the legal compensation they deserve for their mesothelioma lawsuit or asbestos-related lung cancer claim. Essentially, the “new” FACT Act (H.R. 526) would both violate asbestos victims’ privacy and allow asbestos corporations to delay justice until asbestos victims die.

For more specifics about this unfortunate but not surprising legislative development we turn to a January 2015 item from the Environmental Working Group (EWG), “FACT Act Favors Asbestos Industry Over Justice, Public Health”:

Legislation re-introduced by Rep. Blake Farenthold, R-Texas, would place new burdens on asbestos bankruptcy trusts, slowing compensation to victims suffering from fatal asbestos-related diseases such as mesothelioma, EWG Action Fund said today.

The Furthering Asbestos Claim Transparency Act (HR. 526), or FACT Act, would specifically require the bankruptcy trusts to issue quarterly reports disclosing detailed information about individuals seeking compensation, resulting in significant delays and unnecessary burdens for victims….

As EWG Action Fund documented in its groundbreaking investigation “Asbestos: Think Again”, thousands of Americans die each year from asbestos-related diseases. In addition to lung cancer and other illnesses, exposure to asbestos causes mesothelioma, an extremely painful and fatal cancer that attacks the lining of the lungs, stomach and other organs. Mesothelioma requires expensive medical treatment and often kills sufferers within months of being diagnosed.

We agree with the position taken by this EWG item, which had as a sub-headline:  “Would waste assets meant to help victims, invade privacy and delay compensation”.

Those few words capture all that is wrong with this Furthering Asbestos Claim Transparency (FACT) Act of 2015 legislation.

Tell your lawmakers to do the right thing and reject the FACT Act.

Click here to tell your U.S. Representative to oppose the FACT Act (H.R. 526) TODAY!

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Occupational Exposure To Asbestos Dust Or Secondhand Household Exposure Can Result In Mesothelioma Years Later

Over at our Asbestos-Mesothelioma.com website we have a list of questions about job sites or work places where workers were likely to have had direct exposure to asbestos dust if they worked there before the mid-1970’s. See: “Brief Test For Asbestos Exposure Based On Worker’s Employment History”.

In turn, those workers may be at an increased risk of getting an asbestos disease such as asbestosis, lung cancer, or mesothelioma later in life.

In addition, family members of those people who worked around asbestos on the job site or in the work place may have had so-called “secondhand” asbestos exposure. This could come from household activities such as washing the worker’s clothing or, even more unexpectedly, from simply giving a welcome-home hug daily upon the worker getting back to the house each day. See: “How Members Of Worker’s Family Have Been Exposed To Asbestos And Developed Mesothelioma Many Years Later”.

This more limited exposure to asbestos dust may put these family members at an increased risk of getting mesothelioma later in life.

The bottom line is that the risk of developing mesothelioma increases with heavier asbestos exposure. However, there have been cases of individuals with relatively minimal asbestos dust exposure many years ago later developing mesothelioma, such as the family members of asbestos workers.

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Asbestos-Related Lung Cancer Cases Where There Is A History Of Smoking By Plaintiff: See How A Defense Law Firm Looks At These Lawsuits

Recently we came across an article written by two attorneys in Miles & Stockbridge’s Products Liability and Mass Torts Practice Group that provided some insights about how defense lawyers might assess asbestos lung cancer lawsuits.

From the Introduction part of this article, “Asbestos, Smoking and Lung Cancer: Valuing the Venue and Verdict” (subscription required), which was published online in November 2014:

In recent years, courts across the country have seen an increase in lung cancer cases based on alleged asbestos exposure. Many of these cases involve plaintiffs with significant histories of smoking tobacco. Despite this common sense alternative causation, courts vary widely on the impact of this factual scenario depending on the jurisdiction’s utilization of comparative or contributory negligence, recognition of a claim of strict liability, and method of apportionment of damages. Consideration of these factors is essential to evaluate the defense of a case and the potential financial impact of an adverse verdict.

The article continues with discussions of asbestos lung cancer cases from these various perspectives:

  • Comparative Fault
  • Contributory Negligence & Strict Liability
  • Apportionment of Damages
  • Reconciling Fault with Damages
  • Consistent Facts with Inconsistent Results
  • Future Implications

My law firm handles asbestos-related lung cancer cases for plaintiffs with a history of smoking when there is also underlying asbestosis or significant pleural disease present, and these cases are filed as lawsuits or bankruptcy claims against the responsible asbestos companies.

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Verastem Says Its VS-6063 Mesothelioma Treatment Study Is On-Track And Showing Some Promising Results

The COMMAND clinical trial involves the use of Verastem’s experimental drug VS-6063 in patients with malignant pleural mesothelioma. The primary endpoints of COMMAND are progression free survival (PFS) and overall survival (OS). VS-6063 targets cancer stem cells which are an underlying cause of tumor progression and recurrence.

In this January 8, 2015 corporate press release, “Verastem Provides Year-End 2014 Update and Outlook for 2015″, the drug company let us know that things are progressing relatively well for the COMMAND study:

We currently remain on track to complete enrollment by the end of 2015. We are seeing activity of VS-6063 across multiple tumor types, including mesothelioma, ovarian cancer, and also now in advanced non-small cell lung cancer. These results continue to increase our confidence in the potential of a successful outcome from COMMAND. Our goal is to achieve the first approval of VS-6063 in mesothelioma and then to broaden its use to many major cancers such as lung, ovarian and breast cancer [said Robert Forrester, President and Chief Executive Officer of Verastem.]…

“The signals of clinical activity and long-term tolerability that we are seeing across the VS-6063 program are encouraging,” said Dr. Joanna Horobin, Verastem Chief Medical Officer.

We will continue to monitor the COMMAND study being conducted for Verastem’s VS-6063 drug and watch of other clinical trials that involve possible future malignant mesothelioma treatments.


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A List Of Mesothelioma Case Reports From North Carolina Shows This Asbestos Cancer Causes The Deaths Of Many Different Types Of People

Given the limited amount of asbestos exposure needed to cause mesothelioma — just several months, in some instances (as compared to five years or more of working with or around asbestos-containing products for asbestosis and asbestos-related lung cancer) — many different types of people have developed mesothelioma.

In addition, the long latency period, i.e., delay from exposure to diagnosis, for mesothelioma — 10 years to 50 years — means that some people who are diagnosed with mesothelioma do not fit the traditional asbestos case profile, e.g., a construction trades worker who handled asbestos thermal insulation products.

For the past several years we have posted mesothelioma case reports about deaths from around the state of North Carolina caused by mesothelioma. By reviewing this list of North Carolina Mesothelioma Case Reports one can see the diversity of those people who been diagnosed with mesothelioma.

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Biomarkers In Patients With An Epithelioid Subtype Of Pleural Mesothelioma Examined By Medical Researchers

In December 2014 PLoS ONE published online this new medical article, “Clinical Significance of Soluble CD26 in Malignant Pleural Mesothelioma” (free FULL text).

This article presents research about diagnostic markers for malignant pleural mesothelioma (MPM), starting with the premise that there is no established single diagnostic marker for pleural mesothelioma (the most common type of “meso”).

From the final part of the Abstract for this new medical journal article:

Moreover, [dipeptidyl peptidase IV (DPPIV)] enzyme activity in the pleural fluid of patients with MPM with an epithelioid subtype were significantly increased compared with those in the [other benign pleural diseases (OPD)] cohort (P = 0.009). Patients with MPM who had lower specific DPPIV activity, determined as DPPIV/sCD26, showed significantly prolonged survival compared with those with higher specific DPPIV activity (P = 0.028). Serum [soluble CD26 (sCD26)] and DPPIV enzyme activity appear to be useful biomarkers for differentiating patients with MPM from [subjects with past asbestos exposure (SPE)]. The sCD26 levels or DPPIV enzyme activity in pleural fluid appear to be biomarkers in patients with an epithelioid subtype of MPM. DPPIV activity in serum or pleural fluid appears to be predictive for the prognosis of patients with MPM.

We will continue to monitor the medical literature for mesothelioma research and report significant developments here.

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