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Pacific Heart, Lung & Blood Institute
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Funding Needs

Dr. Robert B. Cameron and the staff at The Pacific Meso Center serve as the voice of mesothelioma patients. We are dedicated to finding a cure for mesothelioma, and extending the longevity and quality of life of mesothelioma patients. We cannot achieve any of these goals without additional research and the dollars to fund it.

Promising new treatments, and early detection and prevention programs, are in development at The PMC. Every project builds on to The PMC’s past successes. Patients at The PMC benefit from our translational medicine approach that brings the latest breakthroughs from the lab to the bedside.  Your involvement will help fund the development of future treatments for malignant pleural mesothelioma and eventually, a cure.
 
Please consider funding the following important research projects.
 
Treatment

Future PMC projects aim to improve patients’ quality of life and, at the same time, develop new, successful treatments. Specific research projects in the area of treatment include the following:
 
Interleukin-4 immunotoxin

The science behind it: A protein exists on the surface of mesothelioma cells that far outnumber those on any other cell in the human body by at least 50-100 times. This fact may lead to a way to “target” potential treatments to only tumor cells. This protein binds to a normal body “messenger” molecule called interleukin-4 or IL-4. Collaborators at the FDA and NIH have created a modified IL-4 molecule that includes a deadly biologic toxin attached to it as a potential “targeted” treatment that takes advantage of this unique situation.

The toxin, called IL-4-PE or PRX321, was tested in various cancer models in the Punch Worthington Research Laboratory at UCLA and found to be extremely effective in killing mesothelioma cells and curing animals with mesothelioma. The toxin is the most promising new treatment for patients with this disease and may provide, for the first time, actual hope of a “cure.”  This research has now reached a phase where clinical trials are needed using patients with this uniformly fatal disease. Proposed grants have been declined by various government entities due to the current government fiscal crisis and huge numbers of applicants seeking research dollars for more common cancers.

Funding Requirements:  The acquisition of $2.5 million in funding (toxin will be provided free of charge) for this clinical trial is our top priority. We are convinced that this toxin remains the best hope for meaningful improvement in mesothelioma victims’ lives and the real development of a cure.
 
Genetic modification of the tumor “stromal” environment

The science behind it: This promising new area of research is based on early research findings at the West Los Angeles VA Medical Center (WLAVA). Collaborators at the WLAVA have demonstrated important effects of changing the production of molecules by the supporting normal “stromal” cells rather than targeting the tumor cells, themselves. The results of this work have been published just recently in the journal Clinical Cancer Research (17:3660-72, 2011). This approach, while promising in lung cancer, is even more promising in mesothelioma for several reasons. First, the molecules that are being changed involve new blood vessel formation (angiogenesis) using biologic agents we have been testing in for the last 10 years, such as interferon alpha. Secondly, when surgery is performed for this terrible disease, the entire “tumor bed’ is exposed, and provides an ideal opportunity to apply this type of therapy.

Funding Requirements:  Although basic “preclinical” testing has been performed in lung cancer, similar studies must be performed on mesothelioma prior to trying this approach in human cancer patients. This could be accomplished through a PMC/WLAVA collaborative research program. The funding required for this program is $350,000-$500,000 per year for three to five years. Additional funding of $150,000 would also be required for upgrading The PMC’s laboratory capabilities. In terms of future treatment development, this area of research provides perhaps the highest promise for developing an incredibly effective treatment.
 
Interferon-alpha

The science behind it: The PMC and UCLA have had a long-term interest in the use of interferon alpha in the treatment of mesothelioma. Intriguing data suggests a useful role for this molecule in “maintenance” therapy for mesothelioma. UCLA has been the leading institution in the treatment philosophy that mesothelioma should be treated as a chronic disease, much like high blood pressure or diabetes (both incurable and potentially fatal diseases that can be controlled with effective long-term therapies). The use of interferon alpha as the “insulin” of mesothelioma treatment, keeping the tumor in check for long periods of time, deserves further critical study. A randomized prospective clinical trial is needed with biological correlative studies examining monitoring methods such as urine production of bFGF, a normal body hormone produced in the process of angiogenesis.

Funding Requirements:  This clinical trial has had the support of Schering Plough to provide the medication for free, but would still require $1.2-1.5 million for the necessary support structure including research data collection/reporting, nursing assistance, and clinical care that would be deemed “experimental” by insurance companies and therefore not reimbursed for patients.
 
Cryotherapy

The science behind it:  Some information suggests that cryotherapy can be a kind of “vaccine” opportunity. The effectiveness of a destroyed tumor as a “vaccine” for the body to recognize other areas of tumor is an intriguing area for research. Combinations of cryotherapy with immunotherapeutic agents, such as interferon alpha and interleukin-2, may provide treatment that extends beyond the simple boundaries of the frozen tissue.

Funding Requirements:  This treatment can be investigated with animal models as well as in humans with further exploratory phase I clinical trials in limited numbers of patients. Funding is the only limiting factor and will require $250,000/year.
 
Prevention

Projects that investigate mesothelioma prevention are critical on the “to do list” for The PMC. These projects include basic science studies and clinical projects as outlined below:

International Mesothelioma Data Registry and Tissue Bank
 
International Mesothelioma Data Registry

Despite the fact that thousands of mesothelioma victims are treated each year worldwide, MPM patients and physicians alike are confronted with a lack of useful treatment information regarding treatment outcomes. The first step in understanding a disease and preventing it is to gather information on its occurrence, treatments, and outcomes. This can and should be a worldwide project. The PMC has funded a software development team to create an internet-based International Mesothelioma Data Registry for people of any nationality to contribute to mesothelioma research by including their own mesothelioma story and medical information. The information would be collected with informed consent and analyzed in an anonymous fashion to help direct further cancer research, to understand biological specimens (see below) and to potentially identify people for future clinical trials in mesothelioma prevention.

Funding requirements: The first version of this software is in the final stages of development and funding is now sought for maintenance of the actual data and its website expenses.