As we celebrate the end of the war in Iraq, in which nearly 4,500 US soldiers
were killed in action, and over 30,000 were injured, we are mindful of
our grateful nation’s duty to medically treat our veterans returning
home with war-related disabilities.
Historically, while our country has offered valuable medical care to veterans
with open and obvious physical injuries, it hasn’t done a great
job treating or attempting to treat our veterans afflicted with latent
onset injuries, such as asbestos-caused
Today, to honor our country’s surviving veterans, whether from WWII,
the Korean War, the Vietnam War, or more recent conflicts, who were exposed
to deadly asbestos fibers, but for whom the US Department of Defense has
never funded a treatment program, we are proud to donate $100,000 to the
Pacific Meso Center
The PMC stands alone as the only medical foundation which is dedicated
to both basic science and clinical research on therapies for treating
patients with mesothelioma. Of the 3,500 Americans diagnosed with mesothelioma
annually, about a third of those patients were exposed to asbestos while
serving their country in the armed forces or working as civilians in shipyards
which built or repaired naval ships. For over 40 years, these service
men and women, many of them heroes, have been dying of this horrible disease
and this amounts to ten times the number of deaths as the entire Iraqi war!
Regrettably, despite the clear link between mesothelioma, asbestos, and
the US Navy, the DOD has never acknowledged it's duty to care for
vets with asbestos diseases. The DOD has invested trillions of dollars
over the past three decades in equipping our forces with the most sophisticated
weaponry in the world, but it has been inexcusably penurious when it comes
to funding programs to help prevent, diagnose or treat vets with service
connected asbestos disease, such as mesothelioma.
We salute our front line soldiers, as well as all the doctors, nurses,
and personnel within our vast network of Veterans Administration hospitals
who daily attempt to treat veterans with asbestos diseases, which can
take 20-50 years to manifest after initial asbestos exposures.
Unfortunately, within the colossal VA system, treating meso patients is
a priority. Despite an annual budget of over $132 billion (2012), the
VA has neither a research nor a treatment program for vets stricken with
One bright spot on treatment front, however, is the work and energy of
Dr. Robert Cameron, a thoracic surgeon at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA, who
also serves as the Chief of Thoracic
Surgery at the VA Medical Center in West Los Angeles and one of the only mesothelioma
experts in the VA Medical System.
Dr. Cameron, a scientific advisor for the Pacific Meso Center, has thankfully
taken a leadership role in framing the mission to develop a nationwide
treatment program for veterans with mesothelioma.
Dr. Cameron commented "we are preparing to ask the VA to live up
to its obligations to provide the best medical care for these veterans
suffering from mesothelioma by creating a national center of excellence
for both research and treatment at the West Los Angeles VA Medical Center
where any veteran from across the country can come and be treated with
the most advanced medical treatment available worldwide. We not only can
but we must finally do this for our veterans." We applaud his interest
in this orphan, underfunded disease.
Dr. Cameron recently lectured a large group of
asbestos industry lawyers that despite an annual budget of $5 billion, the National Cancer Institute
has never funded research on
asbestos cancer commensurate with its incidence. He also noted that three promising therapies
-- the IL-4 toxin, cryotherapy and stromal cell
immunotherapy -- would each require start up funding of $2-3 million, which is a tiny
fraction of the financial investment for
Twenty years ago, when we first began representing veterans with mesothelioma,
the lack of a federally funded program was perhaps understandable. But,
today, the lack of a program is simply negligent. As my client
Donald Thorp, a former Navy officer, said in 2000, "We served our country honorably.
I cannot accept that our country has not taken responsibility to serve us."
Can the country afford a few million dollars a year for meso research?
Yes. In 2012, our country has budgeted a whopping $1.4 trillion for defense
related costs, including $707 billion for the DOD.
We are hopeful that our donation will spur the PMC to continue to champion
its campaign to partner with the DOD and DVA in the creation of a mesothelioma
research program for our veterans who, long after their honorable discharge,
continue to battle with war-related cancer.