The quality and focus of our research is what sets The Pacific Meso Center apart from non-university supported treatment centers. Dr. Robert B. Cameron, Scientific Advisor at The Pacific Meso Center, is adedicated advocate for mesothelioma patients. He is committed to making The Pacific Meso Center a worldwide leader in finding new treatments and a cure for mesothelioma. For years, Dr. Cameron has been at the forefront of developing innovative therapies for extending the lives of mesothelioma patients and enhancing their quality of life. Dr. Cameron’s research focuses on programs involving Immunotherapy, screening/early detection, and prevention.
Dr. Robert B. Cameron is committed to making The Pacific Meso Center a worldwide leader in researching mesothelioma. As a research organization, The PMC funds both “internal” as well as “external” research projects. The PMC research program focuses on two major areas:
- Treatment through the development of biologic or “targeted” therapies that are used in conjunction with lung-sparing surgery. The goal is to treat mesothelioma as a chronic, treatable disease.
- Prevention through biologic and/or chemical agents in order to prevent the development of mesothelioma.
The philosophy of treatment research at The PMC is that all treatment approaches must be:
- Researched and carefully thought out
- Based on available data
- Enhance patients’ quality of life
- Continuously critiqued and re-evaluated
- Built upon treatment successes, however small.
Even treatments with modest results can produce exceptional results when combined in a rational way.
Dr. Robert B. Cameron has been engaged in research indicating that mesothelioma may be successfully treated with manipulation of the immune system. Reports in the medical literature reveal success using interferon and immunotoxins. Read on for more information on these promising treatments.
Although interferon alpha has been used in experimental protocols with and without chemotherapy for the treatment of MPM, all prior attempts have concentrated on the use of high doses given intermittently. Dr. Cameron researched the use of this agent as a biological “maintenance” agent years ago. In 2006, Dr. Cameron presented findings at the annual meeting of the Society of Thoracic Surgeons that patients on interferon survived almost three times longer than those not receiving interferon alpha. Dr. Cameron is planning a larger clinical study to test this treatment when funding is obtained.
Initial “preclinical” testing of this incredibly promising molecule has been conducted by Dr. Bryce Beseth in Dr. Cameron’s laboratory at UCLA. The results were published in the Annals of Thoracic Surgery in 2004 but unfortunately, this potentially life-saving medicine has not received enough funding support to continue trials in humans. Dr. Cameron feels that this molecule has more potential to help mesothelioma victims than anything else in cancer research today. The PMC is seeking funding to initiate an FDA- approved clinical trial in patients undergoing surgery.
Other treatments that have been tested with varying levels of success include Cryotherapy (freezing therapy) and Hyperthermia (heat therapy):
Although surgery helps remove all of the visible tumor in 85-90% of mesothelioma patients, the majority still have tumor nodules return in the chest at some point afterward. Because surgery cannot be repeated and often radiation is no longer an option, the only alternative in the past was chemotherapy. Dr. Cameron has used cryotherapy as an alternative, safe, effective, and virtually problem free therapy for localized recurrent tumor nodules. This incredibly simple therapy involves passing a needle into the nodule and freezing it. This kills the tumor cells quite effectively and has dramatically changed the outlook for patients with limited local tumor regrowth. This treatment approach also is the topic of a of an upcoming research paper to be published by Drs. Cameron, and his colleagues, Drs. btin and Suh.Hyperthermia
A number of mesothelioma centers have instituted treatment protocols using hyperthermia treatment during surgery for mesothelioma based on very little real research information. Dr. Cameron has extensive experience in this field, having begun his research career at Stanford University as an undergraduate student in the lab of Dr. George Hahn and Gloria Li conducting research on mechanisms of hyperthermia treatment of cancer. Over the last few years, Dr. Cameron and Dr. Dongmei Hou in the Punch Worthington Research Laboratory at UCLA have shown that the initial limited data on hyperthermia cannot be substantiated in more vigorous testing. The failure of hyperthermia as a treatment option for use in mesothelioma is the topic of an upcoming research paper to be published by Drs. Cameron and Hou shortly.Prevention
Perhaps the most promising area of mesothelioma research is in the area of prevention. It is far simpler to stop cancer from developing rather than to stop it once it has already developed. The PMC is committed to developing a cancer prevention program based on observed cellular and molecular changes that occur over the decades that it takes for mesothelioma to develop after asbestos exposure. Many people do know they have been exposed during this time. Simple measures, such as taking a daily aspirin, may actually stop the changes that lead to cancer. The following projects have been established to lay the groundwork for an eventual clinical trial on mesothelioma prevention.Mesothelioma Clinical Database/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.
Basic science research depends on the study of an actual tumor as well as normal tissue samples in order to understand how to attack the disease and prevent it. Without such samples, little progress can be made. As a companion project to the Mesothelioma Clinical Database/Registry, The PMC plans to establish a related tissue bank. The PMC has been in contact with the University of Pittsburgh virtual mesothelioma tissue bank to combine these resources. It is anticipated that the tissue bank will begin once funding is achieved to provide the resources to maintain the tissue samples in The PMC’s laboratories.Screening/Early Detection/Prevention
Populations of people exposed to asbestos and at risk for mesothelioma and lung cancer currently have no way of determining whether they will develop one of these terrible cancers. Only approximately 15% of patients exposed to asbestos will actually develop mesothelioma or lung cancer. In addition, there is no test which can detect mesothelioma at an early or even pre-malignant stage. The PMC plans an aggressive program for early detection and prevention of mesothelioma. The goal is to help detect the disease in patients at an early stage when there are more options available for effective treatment. The following projects are currently in development.Screening Projects – Breath testing
Breath testing for volatile hydrocarbons may help identify people who are at high risk of actually developing asbestos-related malignancies. Dr. Cameron has already gained significant experience in breath testing of patients with lung cancer and seeks to expand the testing to patients exposed to asbestos and at risk for mesothelioma. The test involves breathing into a tube which collects volatile hydrocarbons on a filter so they can be analyzed. This project will be conducted at UCLA and other mesothelioma treatment centers across the country.
Early Detection Projects – Proteonomics in early detection of mesothelioma. Normal and abnormal cells in the body generate distinctive kinds of proteins. This “protein profile” can be used much like a fingerprint. The PMC plans to study the “protein profile” generated by mesothelioma cells so that simple blood tests can be used to detect mesothelioma at an early stage. This project will involve analysis of blood and urine from mesothelioma victims at all stages of disease, as well as normal and asbestos-exposed people to better define protein profiles in these populations. This project will be conducted at UCLA and other mesothelioma treatment centers across the country.
Prevention Projects – COX-2 inhibition as prevention of mesothelioma Chronic inflammation induced by asbestos fibers is a suspected cause of mesothelioma. One way to prevent the development of mesothelioma in patients with known significant asbestos exposure is to treat them with COX-2 inhibitors (Celebrex, etc.) of inflammation. This has already been shown to prevent other cancers such as colon cancer, and may be effective in lung cancer. This project will be conducted at UCLA and other mesothelioma treatment centers across the country in conjunction with labor unions comprised of high risk workers/patients.
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