Penn Medical School Will Study Cluster Of Mesothelioma Cases In Ambler, PA, The Site Of A Long-Closed Asbestos Factory

The Penn Superfund Research and Training Program (SRP) Center has been established due to a $10 million grant from the National Institute for Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS).

This grant will be used over the next four years to study:

  • asbestos exposure pathways that lead to mesothelioma;
  • the bioremediation of this hazardous material; and,
  • mechanisms that lead to asbestos-related diseases.

In more detail, from this June 9, 2014 press release, “Penn receives $10 million award to study asbestos adverse health effects, remediation”:

This award is the first NIEHS Superfund grant driven by problems identified in a community-academic partnership…. The communities of West and South Ambler have long been active in studying the ramifications of their town’s long-closed asbestos factory. Residents in these communities remain at risk for environmental exposure and a potentially increased risk of developing mesothelioma….

From the late 1880s through the present day, Ambler residents have had either occupational or environmental exposure to asbestos. As a result, both current and former residents of the area face potentially serious long-term health consequences….

The new [SRP] Center will tackle two inter-related environmental science studies and four biomedical science studies. The six projects were designed to address a community-based question or concern that been previously identified by the [Community Outreach and Engagement Core (COEC), which is part of the Center of Excellence in Environmental Toxicology (CEET), at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania]:

•Can we remediate asbestos without moving it from the original disposal site?

•What do we know about the fate and transport of asbestos in the environment by water and air?

•What do we know about the exposure pathways that were responsible for the mesothelioma cluster in Ambler? And why is the incidence higher in women?

•Is susceptibility to mesothelioma genetic?

•Can asbestos-related disease be prevented?

This sounds like a very interesting and worthwhile study regarding the various facets of the asbestos-mesothelioma public health issue.

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How Lung Cancer Cases Might Qualify For Asbestos Claims Compensation (And Why Smoking Does Not Serve To Disqualify)

It is not widely known the smoking lung cancer claims can get legal compensation payments from many asbestos bankruptcy trust funds if certain criteria are satisfied by the facts.

This article will discuss how a person with lung cancer who has had some asbestos exposure in the past could possibly obtain payments by one or more of the asbestos bankruptcy trusts despite having a smoking history.

As background, many companies have been forced into bankruptcy as a result of significant asbestos litigation costs and have reorganized under Section 524(g) of the U.S. Bankruptcy Code. These corporate reorganizations under 524(g) often involve the creation of personal injury trusts intended to make payments to individuals with qualifying asbestos-related claims, including people with lung cancer who had asbestos exposure and who smoked, also.

These 524(g) asbestos bankruptcy trusts typically provide two processes under which a claim can be qualified and paid. The first process is often referred to as “Expedited Review”. The second process offered by many asbestos trusts in an “Individual Review” option.

The Expedited Review payment criteria for lung cancer claims for most asbestos bankruptcy trusts can be reduced to the following four points:

(1) Primary lung cancer plus underlying bilateral asbestos-related non-malignant disease, which can be: asbestosis (interstitial fibrosis caused by asbestos); pleural plaques; pleural thickening; or, pleural calcification.

(2) Six months of asbestos-containing product exposure, which can range from working with or around: thermal insulation such as pipe covering; industrial / institutional boilers; and, finishing cement or joint compound.

(3) Five years of “Significant Occupational Exposure”, the definition of which may include 20 industries as well as nearly 2,000 combinations of industries and occupations where asbestos exposure was likely.

(4) A medical causation statement by a treating doctor or an expert retained by a lawyer.

Notably, for an Expedited Review lung cancer claim there is no smoking history disclosure requirement.

Moving to the Individual Review process — which allows for a higher payment to the claimant — for the lung cancer category the claimant is considered to be a “non-smoker” if the person has at least 12-years of smoking cessation prior to the lung cancer diagnosis date.

In summary, a person with lung cancer who has a minimum of bilateral pleural thickening plus five-years occupational exposure in one of the 2,000 industries – occupations combinations could possibly qualify for a legal claim payment from an asbestos bankruptcy trust fund.

To the extent that you or someone you know has a possible smoking lung cancer asbestos case that might fit the bankruptcy claims criteria set forth above, we encourage you to contact us or some other experienced asbestos law firm for a free evaluation of the matter.

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For Malignant Pleural Mesothelioma The Identification Of Molecular Profiles Is Helpful In Selecting Targeted Therapies

A relatively new medical journal article reports on a development which may improve survival time for those men and women who, unfortunately, have developed malignant pleural mesothelioma (MPM).

From the Abstract for a 2014 Clinical Cancer Research article, “Molecular Classification of Malignant Pleural Mesothelioma: Identification of a Poor Prognosis Subgroup Linked to the Epithelial-to-Mesenchymal Transition”, we get this basic information about the results of a recent medical study:

  • Purpose: Despite research efforts to develop more effective diagnostic and therapeutic approaches, malignant pleural mesothelioma (MPM) prognosis remains poor. The assessment of tumor response to therapy can be improved by a deeper phenotypical classification of the tumor, with emphasis on its clinico-biological heterogeneity. The identification of molecular profiles is a powerful approach to better define MPM subclasses and targeted therapies.
  • Conclusions: A robust classification of MPM that defines two subgroups of epithelioid MPM, characterized by different molecular profiles, gene alterations, and survival outcomes, was established.

We will watch for further developments in this avenue of medical research concerning malignant pleural mesothelioma.

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Progression Of Malignant Pleural Mesothelioma Might Be Slowed Down By Systemic Delivery Of Stem Cells

New medical research out of the United Kingdom (UK) suggests using stem cell therapy to decrease tumor burden as a new possible treatment of malignant pleural mesothelioma.

From a March 19, 2014 news report, “Systemic stem cell therapy reduces malignant mesothelioma growth”:

Systemic delivery of stem cells expressing an apoptosis-inducing protein can successfully incorporate into malignant pleural mesothelioma (MPM) cells and subsequently induce their death, according to preclinical study findings….

“Bone marrow-derived mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) are attractive candidates as vectors for anticancer therapies for a variety of reasons,” say Sam Janes (University College London, UK) and colleagues who performed the study….

“In this study, we show for the first time that MSCs expressing TRAIL (MSCTRAIL) induce apoptosis in MPM cells in vitro,” Janes and team report in Thorax. TRAIL, or tumour necrosis factor-related apoptosis-inducing ligand, is a transmembrane protein and an “exciting anticancer molecule”, the team explains….

“MSCs home to and incorporate into tumours in vivo when delivered via both intrapleural and intravenous routes,” the team notes, so using these cells to deliver TRAIL is an interesting prospect for malignant mesothelioma, which is often too diffuse to surgically remove or does not respond well to chemotherapy.

We will continue to watch for more developments as regards the use of certain stem cells to reduce the growth of malignant pleural mesothelioma (MPM) cells.

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Baltimore Judge Refuses A Proposed Plan For The Trial Consolidation Of More Than 13,000 Non-Mesothelioma Asbestos Cases

Back in the early 1990s I was part of a trial team at the Ness Motley law firm who represented thousands of former workers from the Ingalls Shipyard (Pascagoula, Mississippi) in one very large asbestos trial. It was so large, in fact, that it had to be held in a makeshift courtroom over at the county fairgrounds because the local state courthouse did not have sufficient room for all the attorneys involved with this trial, which lasted about six months.

There has not been any mass trial consolidations for asbestos cases in many years. However, recently the Circuit Court for Baltimore City — a court with one of the largest number of total pending asbestos cases in the US — was asked by an asbestos plaintiffs’ law firm in Baltimore to consolidate more than 13,000 non-mesothelioma cases into a three-phase consolidated trial process.

On March 5, 2014, in a 43-page opinion, Judge John M. Glynn rejected this so-called Baltimore “Consolidation III” proposal. See In re Asbestos Pers. Injury, No. 24-X-87-048500, 2014 WL 895441 (Md. Cir. Ct. Mar. 5, 2014).

Consolidating asbestos cases in a mass trial was a common approach two decades ago, but it has since been abandoned by US courts for various reasons.

The March 2014 Order issued by Judge Glynn in Maryland makes it likely that courts will refuse to approve any other asbestos case consolidations which may be proposed, or not, in the future.

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The Radical Surgery Procedure Extrapleural Pneumonectomy (EPP) Is Controversial, At Best, As A Treatment Of Malignant Pleural Mesothelioma

Extrapleural pneumonectomy (EPP) as a surgical treatment of malignant pleural mesothelioma became popular in the 1990s due, in part, to a number of papers authored by the renowned Dr. David Sugarbaker.

Now, however, that particular surgery option for mesothelioma treatment has fallen out of favor in the medical field, according to an April 2014 article, “Radical Surgery for Mesothelioma: Still Controversial”, published on the Medscape web site (free registration required).

From this recent article:

“There is doubt about whether there is any survival or symptomatic benefit from [extrapleural pneumonectomy (EPP)] surgery, but we know that there is harm,” say a group of experts in a recent editorial in Thorax (2014;69:194-197).

When mesothelioma patients ask about surgery, the “default position for clinicians should be to encourage recruitment into clinical trials,” they wrote. The authors were Avijit Datta, MD, from the Department of Respiratory Medicine in York Teaching Hospital, and 3 colleagues from the United Kingdom, including senior author Tom Treasure, MD, from the Clinical Operations Unit at University College London….

“In my opinion, EPP has been proven to have net harm but has not been proven to have any benefit and, on average, it does not prolong life,” Dr. Treasure said. He also admitted that, while he has carried out many other thoracic surgical procedures, he has personally never done an EPP, because it is drastic surgery “that made no sense at all…. I thought it was irrational, and the evidence was never there.”…

The “milder and gentler” option of [extended pleurectomy/decortication, known as the EP/D procedure,] spares the lung, which enables the patient to breathe better for longer, so it may allow patients to have a better quality of life for the time they have left, Dr. Treasure said. There is also the “even milder” approach of debulking keyhole surgery, as explored in the MesoVATS trial, which has shown that this surgical approach improves quality of life, although it does not prolong survival.

Be assured that we will continue to monitor developments regarding malignant pleural mesothelioma treatments.

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Well-Known Mesothelioma Medical Doctor David Sugarbaker Moving From Brigham And Women’s Hospital To Lung Disease Center At Baylor College Of Medicine

A leader in the care of pleural mesothelioma, Dr. David Sugarbaker, will direct the mesothelioma clinical and research program at the Lung Institute, a new comprehensive lung disease center at Baylor College of Medicine in Texas.

From a March 24, 2014 news report about Dr. Sugarbaker going to Baylor that was posted on BioNews Texas:

Sugarbaker comes to Baylor from Boston, where he served as professor of surgery at Harvard Medical School and chief of thoracic surgery at Brigham and Women’s Hospital. He will join the Baylor faculty this July and lead the new Lung Institute, multi-specialty center focused on lung disease, at Baylor College of Medicine…..

“Part of what attracted me to Baylor is the opportunity to build something that never has been done before,” he said. “I see a large role for clinical and translational research, with an eye to getting new treatments to patients as soon as possible. Baylor is a leader in genomic research and that will play a key part, as well as the personalized treatment of a patient’s lung disease. This program also will have a strong surgical presence.”…

Sugarbaker has led efforts in malignant pleural mesothelioma, including the banking of frozen samples of more than 1,500 mesotheliomas to help advance the research in molecular markers in the disease. He also has played a leading role in developing the clinical investigation of the role of surgery in cancer therapy trials.

We wish Dr. Sugarbaker the best in his new position at Baylor, and hope he has much success in finding new mesothelioma treatments for patients who have developed this tragic asbestos-related cancer.

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2014 International Symposium on Malignant Mesothelioma: Presentations From Recent Conference Now Online

The Mesothelioma Applied Research Foundation (aka “Meso Foundation”) has made available videos of sessions and presentations from its 11th International Symposium on Malignant Mesothelioma, which was convened March 5-7, 2014 in Alexandria, Virginia.

From their March 30, 2014 press release, “Presentations from Mesothelioma Conference Now Available Online”:

Some of the available topics include discussions specific to mesothelioma on:
•chemo brain
•post-surgical recovery
•radiation oncology
•becoming an empowered patient
•mesothelioma survivorship
•the state of medical research
•pulmonary health
•cancer stem cells
•early detection

All conference content is available at:

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A Few New Immunotherapy Mesothelioma Treatment Options Were Discussed At The European Lung Cancer Conference 2014

Some investigational immunotherapy drugs that act on the programmed cell death pathway in lung cancer patients are now being considered as a new treatment means for patients with mesothelioma.

Several presentations at the recent European Lung Cancer Conference (ELCC) 2014 in Zurich about these possible new mesothelioma treatments were set forth in the March 27, 2014 article, “Could Immunotherapy Work in Mesothelioma?”, published online by Medscape.

As regards the first study, from this March 2014 article:

Sarcomatoid mesothelioma has the worst prognosis, and is generally considered to be the most aggressive form of the disease, [lead author Aaron Mansfield, MD, from the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota]commented to Medscape Medical News. Many of these patients have extensive disease and are not eligible for surgery. He suggested that the data showing that these tumors express PDL-1 offers hope that PDL-1 blocking agents may be of benefit in these patients. A clinical trial is already underway, he said.

And later in that same Medscape report we get this summary about another presentation at the 2014 ELCC in Zurich concerning new approaches to treating mesothelioma:

At another session at the meeting, Dean Fennell, PhD, FRCP, chair of thoracic medical oncology at the University of Leicester, United Kingdom, reviewed new approaches to the treatment of mesothelioma that are currently under investigation, and said that PD inhibition has really important potential in this disease. He also mentioned the success that had been seen with another immune-based response, which used an antimesothelin immunotoxin in combination with immunosuppression (Sci Transl Med. 2013;5:208ra147). This vaccine-like approach showed “quite spectacular results,” with some patients showing “very significant regression,” he commented.

We will continue to monitor the medical literature for developments as regards mesothelioma treatment options.

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It Appears That Wisconsin Legislators Were “Told” By ALEC How To Draft Asbestos Lawsuits Restrictions Bill Which Is To Be Voted On In March 2014

It is well-established that the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce are in favor of state statutes which serve to narrow or restrict access to the courts for individuals who have developed asbestos-related diseases like mesothelioma.

To this end, ALEC has pushed for legislation that would allow corporations to not let an asbestos lawsuit to proceed to trial in the court system until the person with mesothelioma, for example, files claims with the various relevant asbestos bankrupty “trust funds” (which were set up after an asbestos company went bankrupt, as many companies have done due to their asbestos legal compenation liabilities).

There are many reasons this type of legislation is not fair to that person — while serving to benefit the responsible asbestos companies which would be defendants in the court trial — with the most obvious one being that most individuals diagnosed with mesothelioma will live only 6 to 18 months from the time they are diagnosed.  Meanwhile, the asbestos bankruptcy claims filing process can take several years from start to finish for the typical occupational-exposure asbestos case.

As regards the most recent ALEC “involvement” with asbestos litigation in the court system, this time in Wisconsin, we get the following from a March 20, 2014 article, “Wisconsin Poised to Pass ALEC’s Deadly Asbestos Bill”, published on the PR Watch site (which is a service of the Center for Media and Democracy):

Wisconsin could become the latest state to narrow access to the courts for asbestos victims in a bill up for a vote on March 20, joining a national coordinated effort that can be traced back to the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

Rep. Andre Jacque, a member of the ALEC Civil Justice Task Force, introduced Assembly Bill 19 in April of 2013. A version of the legislation passed the Wisconsin Senate last week on a nearly party line vote, and is now before the Assembly. It resembles the ALEC “Asbestos Claims Transparency Act,” which was adopted as a “model” by members of the ALEC Civil Justice Task Force in 2007. In December of 2012, Ohio became the first state to pass the legislation. In the 2013 session, nearly identical legislation has been introduced in Wisconsin, Oklahoma, Illinois and Texas.

The legislation would benefit corporations like Crown Holdings, a Fortune 500 company with over $8 billion in annual sales that has worked with ALEC for years to legislate its way out of compensating asbestos victims, as well as ALEC member Honeywell International, which has faced significant asbestos liability in recent years….

Sponsors Say the Bill Has Nothing to Do with ALEC?

The Wisconsin bill’s sponsors, Rep. Andre Jacque and Sen. Glenn Grothman — both ALEC members — deny that ALEC had anything to do with AB 19. Andrew Cook of the Wisconsin Civil Justice Council also said his group did not consult with ALEC on the bill.

According to the drafting files, Rep. Jacque asked the Legislative Reference Bureau to draft a bill based on the Ohio legislation. Yet as a member of the ALEC Civil Justice Task Force, Rep. Jacque surely knew that the Ohio bill was based off of the ALEC model.

[Footnotes omitted; live links are found at original source]

As state lawmakers elected by the citizens of Wisconsin, these legislators should not be in a position where it appears that they were “told” how to draft legislation which serves the interests of certain corporations while, at the same time, disregards the legal rights of those people in Wisconsin who, unfortunately and due to no fault of their own, have developed mesothelioma and other asbestos-related diseases.

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