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Latest Lung-Sparing Therapies, Patient Resources and "Hollywood Ending" at Pacific Meso Center's 5th International Symposium


The Pacific Meso Center, in conjunction with The Office of Continuing Medical Education of the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA, held the 5th International Symposium on Lung-Sparing Therapies for Malignant Pleural Mesothelioma on May 2nd, 2015 in Santa Monica, California. We were proud to again be the platinum sponsor of this unique medical seminar focusing on rational treatment options for patients with pleural mesothelioma.

As in years past, the course organizer and chair of the symposium was thoracic surgeon and pleural mesothelioma specialist, Dr. Robert Cameron. An ardent supporter of rational lung-sparing treatments for pleural mesothelioma, and innovator of the pleurectomy/decortication (“PD”) surgical procedure, Dr. Cameron is the founder and director of the Comprehensive Mesothelioma Program at both the UCLA Medical Center and the West Los Angeles Veterans’ Administration Medical Center.

Dr. WederInternational Panel of Specialists Discuss Latest Treatment Developments

Dr. Cameron started the program with a presentation regarding the pros and cons of extending lung-sparing surgery to include the diaphragm and pericardium. Reviewing relevant study data along with his experience treating patients at UCLA and the West Los Angeles VA, Dr. Cameron concluded that it is preferable to limit the procedure to where the tumor is already present. Resection of the diaphragm and pericardium poses a risk of spreading tumor cells distantly to the abdomen and contralateral pleura and is not necessary in most patients.

In a second presentation, Dr. Cameron addressed the potential role of vaccines as an immunotherapy agent in the treatment of malignant pleural mesothelioma. He explained how vaccines can be used to overcome the immunosuppressive microenvironment of tumor cells. He sees a potential for using vaccines before, during and/or after lung- sparing surgery for pleural mesothelioma.

Dr. LeeDr. Walter Weder, Head of the Division of Thoracic Surgery at the University of Zurich Hospital in Switzerland, gave a presentation on his experience in transitioning from Extra-Pleural Pneumonectomy (“EPP”) to lung-sparing PD as the preferred surgical treatment for pleural mesothelioma. He also addressed a new study at the University of Zurich exploring the efficacy of a strategy to improve local control after surgery. The study, which is in its very early stages, involves spraying a mixture of Cisplatin and fibrin intraoperatively to the tumor site.

Dr. Marc de Perrot, Associate Professor of Surgery at the University of Toronto, addressed the present and future use of IMRT radiation therapy before surgery. He addressed a recent study showing encouraging results for patients with epithelial mesothelioma who received one week of hemithoracic IMRT before surgery. Dr. Perrot suggested that in future studies, the protocol should be refined to include an immunotherapy agent.

Dr. OlevskyThree separate presentations regarding topics relating to adjuvant radiation therapies were presented by Dr. Percy Lee, Chief of Thoracic Radiation Oncology and member of the Comprehensive Mesothelioma Program at UCLA Medical Center, Dr. Peter Chen, Radiation Oncologist at Hoag Family Cancer Institute, and Dr. Shilpen Patel, Associate Professor at the University of Washington Medical Center. The presentations revealed that recent advancements in technology and treatment methods, including helical tomotherapy, have decreased toxicity and increased the effectiveness of adjuvant radiation therapy.

Dr. Olga Olevsky , Oncologist and member of the Comprehensive Mesothelioma Program at UCLA, addressed recent developments in systemic therapies for pleural mesothelioma, including numerous immunotherapy treatments and treatments involving cancer stem cells. Dr. Olevsky indicated that as more systemic therapies become available, developments in identifying and correlating biomarkers may allow doctors to identify which therapy will be most effective for a given patient.

Dr. WongDr. J. Andrea McCart, Associate Professor at the University of Toronto Department of Surgery, presented the results of a recent study regarding the use of virotherapy as adjuvant to debulking surgery for peritoneal mesothelioma. She also presented the results of animal studies involving the use of virotherapy in the treatment of pleural mesothelioma, concluding that the favorable results suggest that it should be developed for use in humans.

Pacific Meso Center Research Scientist Raymond Wong, PhD gave a presentation regarding the results of his study at the Pacific Meso Center Lab in Los Angeles using mesenchymal stem cells to deliver drugs to tumor cells to increase the effectiveness of immunotherapy agents. He noted the opportunity to incorporate delivery via mesenchymal stem cells with the many studies that are currently being conducted for the new PD-1 immune checkpoint blocking drugs.

Patient Resources and Advocacy

Lien Hua-FengLien Hua-Feng, Nurse Practitioner at the Pacific Meso Center, gave an eye-opening presentation regarding deceitful tactics employed by disreputable lawyers seizing on the vulnerability of patients diagnosed with mesothelioma. She provided examples of websites appearing to be maintained by medical professionals offering free assistance with medical treatment and contacting mesothelioma specialists. But the “disclaimer page” on the sites reveals that they are really maintained by a law firm and should not be relied upon for making medical decisions. She explained that, instead of getting reliable medical information, patients who contact the sites are besieged with calls from so-called “patient advocates” or attorneys seeking to sign them as clients. Nurse Hua-Feng warned patients of the importance of turning to “real” medical professionals for reliable medical information and experienced attorneys for reliable legal information.

Linda Reinstein, President and CEO of the Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization, gave a presentation on recent legislation regarding asbestos and the status of her ongoing efforts to get congress to enact a meaningful ban of asbestos in the United States.

“Hollywood Ending”

Clare CameronPacific Meso Center Executive Director Clare Cameron gave an enlightening presentation regarding the long-standing use of asbestos in the film industry and the number of actors and production workers who have been stricken with mesothelioma. She provided shocking statistics about the amount of asbestos used in such classic movies as “Wizard of Oz,” “White Christmas” and “It’s a Wonderful Life.”

The symposium concluded with an emotional presentation from Mia Lauter, wife of actor Ed Lauter, who appeared in over 550 feature productions and lost his life to mesothelioma in 2013. She explained that when Ed was diagnosed, the only treatment options his doctor told him about were chemotherapy and amputation of his lung though EPP. Ed eventually had chemotherapy and died shortly thereafter.

Mia expressed regret over not knowing about the Pacific Meso Center at the time, and how, with information about additional treatment options such as the lung-sparing treatments available through UCLA and Dr. Cameron, Ed’s situation could have been different.

Mia and Ed LauterMia is converting her grief into action to improve the outcomes of others who contract mesothelioma, both in and out of the entertainment industry. She is working with PMC to hold a fundraising gala in November at the SLS Hotel in Hollywood. Ed’s good friend and former co-star Liam Neeson has committed to participate in the event which will raise much needed funds for mesothelioma research conducted by PMC.

Mia stated that when Ed was diagnosed, he and others afflicted with mesothelioma needed a “louder voice.” Now, with her commitment to raising awareness and the need for research, mesothelioma sufferers will have a “Lauter voice!”