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UCLA Proposes Comprehensive Mesothelioma Translational Research Program


Dr. Robert Cameron, Chief of Thoracic Surgery at UCLA Medical School, noting a lack of teaching hospitals that cultivate medical talent for treating mesothelioma patients, has proposed a comprehensive research and treatment program for mesothelioma. This is a long overdue program. Currently, there are several hospitals nationwide that offer distinct treatment options. However, very few if any offer a variety of options that provide the patient with a reasonable choice.

Below is a summary of the proposed program. UCLA is searching for funding. As the Wall Street Journal recently reported, mesothelioma research is woefully underfunded. "From 2000 through last year, the National Cancer Institute spent $8.4 million on mesothelioma research, less than a tenth of one percent of the federal agency's $15.83 billion spent on all cancer research."

If you are interested in donating to UCLA for the implementation of this program, which will provide the full range of treatments from surgery to chemotherapy to radiation to pain management, please contact Dr. Robert Cameron or my office, and we will help facilitate your generosity.

Thank you,

Roger G. Worthington

1. Basic Science: a comprehensive program in basic science experimentation has been in place since 1994 investigating IL-4 immunotoxin in the treatment of malignant mesothelioma. This program has demonstrated high expression of high affinity IL-4 receptors on the surface of these tumor cells and an unusual susceptibility to this specific toxin. This has been investigated in cell culture and animals. Further investigation is now underway in parallel in the areas of hyperthermia, COX-2 inhibition, CXC chemokines, and angiogenesis inhibition. These each are being investigated independently as well as in combination with Alimta/cisplatin chemotherapy to predict the best combination of treatments for future clinical trials planning. One of the most interesting areas is the applications of interleukin-2 and interferon which induce certain ELR- CXC chemokines with a positive feedback mechanism which perpetuates the process indefinitely until the tumor is killed by lack of oxygen. This is modeled after the body's response to tuberculosis which induces a similar process. Additional studies in sustained release pain medications to relieve surgical/tumor pain for periods of 3-6 weeks also is being planned in conjunction with materials science engineers at UCLA. This program is targeting the relief of horrible pain as a valid endpoint in an of itself with implantable bioengineered anesthetic materials.

2. Clinical Science: Currently, we are leading the way in maintenance therapy following cytoreduction by surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy. We have been using interferon alpha in a low daily injection to induce CXC chemokines, stimulate the immune system, directly inhibit tumor growth, and inhibit angiogenesis. This has shown promising early results and requires a larger confirmatory trial. Further testing with intra-operative hyperthermia with and without IL-4 immunotoxin is currently being planned. Additional studies with COX-2 inhibitors, such as Celebrex is also being contemplated. Future studies with pain-relieving implant is also planned with surgical patients.

3. Training Program: There are almost no centers specifically training oncologists/scientists in malignant mesothelioma treatment. We hope to establish a 2-year research/clinical training position designed to train physicians in basic research methodology and clinical trials in mesothelioma research. This would be the first position of its kind and would be fully integrated with the above research program.