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Uniting Against the Common Enemy Patients, Doctors, Trial Lawyers and Defendants Invest in Curing Mesothelioma


The Mesothelioma Applied Research Foundation (MARF), the national nonprofit organization whose mission is to eradicate mesothelioma as a life-ending disease, has a vision doctors, mesothelioma sufferers and their attorneys, and the corporations targeted for exposing millions of Americans to asbestos should all contribute to cure this most deadly of asbestos-related diseases.

Recent events prove the vision is becoming reality and none too soon.

Traditional medical thinking was nihilistic mesothelioma could not be cured, life could not be extended, and one could only hope to ease suffering before certain death. The statistics indeed remain grim most die within 8 to 18 months of onset.

In the past decade, a core of medical experts committed to finding effective treatments arose, but these pioneers lacked financial backing, both from the Federal Government and the private sector. The legal system focused on finding fault, not funding a cure. Before MARF, there had never been a U.S. nonprofit dedicated to funding mesothelioma research.

The ones who have suffered the most the patients and their friends and family have given the most. MARF has received almost 2,000 donations from relatives and loved ones of mesothelioma patients. These include a substantial number of large, memorial contributions which directly increase MARF's ability to fund research. Barbara Hoffacker has donated $150,000 in memory of her husband, Hans. She was also instrumental in the formation of MARF's Family Advocacy Board, a patient network support group.

Recently, Jim Seiler, a management consultant in San Juan Capistrano, California, donated $100,000 to MARF. Jim lost his wife Linda, an actress and singer, to mesothelioma in October, 2001. "Linda loved giving more than receiving," recalls Jim, who learned of MARF through their surgeon at UCLA, Dr. Robert Cameron. "Even in her final days, her chief concern was the welfare of her family and friends. She counted among her dearest friends all mesothelioma patients, especially those newly diagnosed. We discussed this donation before she died so in some small way she might be able to help others avoid the suffering she courageously endured."

Another eyewitness to the mesothelioma tragedy, oncologist and MARF Science Advisory Board member Dr. Claire Verschraegen, recently donated her entire fee to MARF for testifying in a deposition for one of her mesothelioma patients. This is but one example of the generosity of Dr. Verschraegen and the other physicians on MARF, who have together invested countless hours in helping educate patients, reviewing research grants and contributing novel ideas to MARF's "think tank."

The hard part? The hart part has been getting those with the greatest means (namely, the corporate asbestos defendants and the lawyers for mesothelioma patients ) to give .

A relative handful of lawyers have stepped up to the plate.

The Law Offices of Roger G. Worthington, P.C. has given $372,000 to MARF, in addition to Worthington's volunteer work as a director. He has also helped persuade a number of his colleagues and clients to contribute. Baron & Budd, the largest asbestos plaintiffs' firm in the country, has given a total of $144,000. Both law firms make a cash donation to MARF in memory of their clients taken by this asbestos cancer.

This past week alone, the Kaeske Law Firm generously donated $40,000 to MARF, and Waters & Kraus added a $50,000 donation to the $50,000 it gave in 2000. Said Peter Kraus of the firm's commitment to funding research through MARF.

After years of little or no progress on mesothelioma treatment, we are finally seeing signs of progress in the struggle for an effective regimen to combat this killer disease. We believe that MARF deserves the support of mesothelioma victims, their families, their lawyers, and the responsible companies. With support, MARF can and will make a difference in the fight to cure mesothelioma. We are pleased to be able to support their efforts.

What of the corporate defendants? In 2000, Owens-Corning pledged $1million to MARF for mesothelioma research over 5 years. According to MARF Executive Director Christopher Hahn.

Of all the companies named as defendants in asbestos litigation, the first such company in history to contribute to mesothelioma research was Owens-Corning. We believe this represented the beginning of a much-needed paradigm shift. We saw an effort on both sides of the often stormy litigation to stop aiming their guns at each other and for a moment point them at the common enemy, the disease itself.

Unfortunately, after making an initial installment payment to MARF of $100,000 in the year 2000, OCF declared bankruptcy later that year, leaving the $900,000 balance unpaid. W.R. Grace & Co, which served on MARF's original board of directors, also intended to make a handsome donation before it sought Chapter 11 protection.

Undeterred by these setbacks, MARF and its friends have kept pushing corporations on the defendants' side of the litigation to give. Having achieved a "first" with Owens-Corning, MARF today announces a "second" Last week Owens-Illinois, another corporation on the defendants' side, contributed $33,000 to MARF, in memory of Admiral Elmo Zumwalt, Jr. Admiral Zumwalt served the nation heroically as the Naval Commander in Vietnam and then the Chief Naval Officer before succumbing to mesothelioma in 2000.

The failure to cure mesothelioma has not for a lack of ideas or strategies. The impediment has always been lack of funding. MARF each year solicits research proposals from the top mesothelioma experts throughout the world, reviews the proposals rigorously for scientific merit, and then selects the highest-ranking projects for grant funding.

To date MARF has awarded $400,000 in research grants to four promising projects, and is currently receiving applications for its third round of grants. MARF has also launched the operation of the first-ever national mesothelioma database. Under the supervision of Dr. Cameron at UCLA, the database will collect clinical data from the medical records of mesothelioma patients. The database will help doctors learn more about the relationship between therapies and survival outcomes. Since its inception in late 1999, MARF has raised over $1.8 million dollars.

For more information, please contact MARF Executive Director Chris Hahn at 805-560-8942,, or visit the MARF website, http//