Tag Archives: cancer

mesothelioma – a potential legacy of 9/11?

September 26th is once again the day selected by the United States Congress to raise public awareness of the cause and effects of mesothelioma, Nearly 3,000 Americans are diagnosed with mesothelioma each year.

Despite regulations imposed by the Environmental Protection Agency, and the increasing number of lives claimed by mesothelioma, lung cancer, and other asbestos-related illness, an estimated 1.3 million construction and general industry worker are still regularly exposed to asbestos. Traditionally, industry workers such as shipyard and factory workers, plumbers, machinists, mechanics and electricians are those most commonly exposed to asbestos, and military and navy veterans also commonly suffer from asbestos cancer because of the toxic mineral’s presence in munitions and ships.

However, the discovery of new contaminants and the many tragic natural disasters that have torn through asbestos tainted buildings have put all Americans at risk.

The collapse of the New York City’s Twin Towers on 9/11 exposed thousands of first responders to asbestos and other fatal contaminants, as did Hurricane Katrina’s destruction of New Orleans. In addition, the mineral erionite, which is found in road gravel in several US states, has now been determined to also cause malignant mesothelioma.

Patients currently only survive about one year after diagnosis, but many studies and clinical trials are testing new and improved treatments that will hopefully help increase mesothelioma life expectancy.

Mesothelioma treatment developments in the US

Always interesting to see what else is being developed worldwide, the US has led a lot of the treatments and just published a recent update regarding heated chemotherapy during surgery. This multi-pronged treatment is meant to reach cancer cells that surgeons can’t easily remove. This form of treatment is particularly useful when treating peritoneal mesothelioma, a rare cancer that affects the lining of the abdomen, as the chemotherapy drugs are heated and used to bathe the abdominal cavity.


In an article published in the New York Times on August 12, 2011, heated chemotherapy was described as the most aggressive form of cancer treatment possible. In the article, Dr. Paul Sugarbaker, a leading proponent of hyperthermic chemotherapy, as the therapy is also known, said that it is common knowledge among doctors that cancer cells cannot withstand as much heat as healthy cells. Applying the chemotherapy directly over the tumors should be more effective than administering the medication through the bloodstream.

However, the treatment also has critics who question the therapy’s benefits, despite the fact that an increasing number of American hospitals are offering it as treatment for mesothelioma and a variety of other cancers.

Critics believe that studies of hyperthermic chemotherapy were slanted towards patients with less severe cases of mesothelioma and, therefore, garnered far better results than if they had been conducted with your average mesothelioma patients.

Haven’t heard from anyone if this is offered in the UK .


Good news at Bart’s

After the longest morning of my life ( even worse than waiting for my A Level results), we got the results of the PET-CT scan. Overall it was good news, there is no indication the meso is growing , there is some trace on the PET , but they think it is linked to inflammation from the surgery , which can apparently show up for years.

No sign of it anywhere else in the body either, the only negs were, there is still a very small pleural effusion , which has remained since the surgery , no nasties in it apparently and doesn’t impact on his breathing. The unexplained bit is still the pain across the top of his stomach and down his right side, the oncologist didn’t have any explanation for this, so we will be checking this bit out with the surgeon  next Wednesday.

We have a new CT scan booked for two months time at the end of September, so hopefully am going to get used to waiting for these tests.

Strangely felt very unreal, think we were both so psyched up for bad news, we didn’t believe the scan interpretation , have driven home with us both in a slight state of shock. Hopefully come Wednesday , if the surgeon says the same and can explain the cause of the pain , we can both relax a little and enjoy the summer. Big emphasis on him continuing to exercise as much as possible, so I can see the bicycles out again this weekend.



New staging discussions and a $2.5 million mesothelioma compensation payment

News this week about possible new staging for meso, the Aurora, Colorado-based International Association for the Study of Lung Cancer (IASLC), in collaboration with the International Mesothelioma Interest Group (IMIG), has begun a project to study and improve the current staging system of pleural mesothelioma.

The current pleural mesothelioma staging system was developed by IMIG in 1995 and is based on the relationship between tumor size, lymph node and metastasis (TNM). However, experts believe that improvements in mesothelioma diagnosis and treatment call for revisions to be made to the staging system. Additionally, the IASLC believes that some of the tumor descriptors are currently difficult to apply to non-surgically managed patients. Additionally, the organization says that the lymph node aspect of the staging is nearly identical to non-small cell lung cancer, despite the fact that there are big differences between the two cancers.

The Prospective Staging Project in Malignant Pleural Mesothelioma was formed at a joint meeting of the IASLC-ISC Mesothelioma Domain and Advisory Committee in September 2010 in Kyoto, Japan. In order to modify the system, detailed collection and analysis of mesothelioma patient data is necessary, and researchers will have “to identify and validate additional descriptors for possible inclusion in future revisions to the TNM classification.”

At the moment, it seems to be easy to be written off when you have a meso diagnosis, particularly if it is beyond stage 3. Not sure what these possible changes may mean, but anything that stops this instant write off by most of the medical profession has to help.

Another claim settled this week in America, over yet another asbestos source,James Ginter began working as a laboratory chemist at Durez Plastics, manufacturer of industrial resins and phenolic molding compounds in North Tonawanda, New York, in 1979. During his time there, Ginter worked with a FAST (Friction Assessment Screening Test) Machine manufactured by the Ford Motor Company, the use of which required that he file and grind experimental asbestos-containing friction products used as vehicle brakes.

By grinding asbestos-containing materials, Ginter was exposed to a dust containing carcinogenic asbestos fibers during testing. Although Ford was entirely aware of the harmful effects of asbestos at the time and even knew that employees were suffering from asbestos cancer, Ford continued manufacturing the machine without providing any warnings.

Ginter was diagnosed with malignant mesothelioma in March 2010. He later filed a lawsuit against Ford for causing the cancer that will ultimately claim his life. The Buffalo jury delivered a verdict in favor of Ginter in the amount of $2.5 million dollars, assigning 15% of the responsibility for damages to Ford. The remaining percentage of responsibility for damages was assigned to other entities, including defendants, who settled before going to trial.

Mesothelioma treatment – new developments

Actually saw something about meso on mainstream TV last night , when Meridian highlighted a new vaccine trial recruiting for participants . They are looking for 26 people to form part of the trial for Trovax that stimultates the imuune response. The item on Meridian highlighted the involvement of the Oxford company  supplying the vaccine. It was introuduced by Dr Andrew Lawson, who is one of the select group of meso survivors having been diagnosed 4 years ago. He was looking extremely healthy , having just completed a furthur degree.

The programme also featured Mavis , one of our other meso warriers, making a great cup of tea.

Always good to see this cancer getting more awareness and new research.

The Phase I/II study in mesothelioma , with Oxford BioMedica collaborating with a team of cancer immunologists led by Dr Zsuzsanna Tabi at Cardiff University and Dr Jason Lester, an oncologist at Velindre Cancer Centre in Cardiff, to evaluate TroVax® in a Phase I/II study in mesothelioma .  The study will be funded by the June Hancock Mesothelioma Research Fund and Oxford BioMedica will provide TroVax®.  The study aims to examine the effect of TroVax® in combination with first-line chemotherapy agents as a treatment against mesothelioma.

As well as the Cardiff based trial of trolux, there is another trial underway in Liverpool, looking into the effectiveness of the TeloVac jab vaccine. This new therapy uses “the body’s own defenses to fight cancer, stopping tumors in their tracks.” The researchers are testing the vaccine’s effects on pancreatic cancer. If it proves successful, the vaccine may be extended to the treatment of other aggressive and terminal cancers, such as mesothelioma.

The new vaccine enables the body’s immune system to kill an enzyme called telomerase, which makes cancer cells indestructible and allows the tumor to grow unchecked. Over 1,000 late stage pancreatic cancer sufferers are participating in the Liverpool trial.

Onwards and upwards in the meantime with the chemotherapy recovery. Weather is looking great today so am hopeful may be able to manage a gentle game of tennis.

The great scan debate

Having read at the weekend about people having to wait ages for a scan , rather like buses two have come along at once. In the blue corner ,  the long arranged CT scan due next Friday, in the red corner just had notification  today about a PET-CT scan booked for next Wednesday .

Positron emission tomography (PET) and computerized tomography (CT) are both state-of-the-art imaging tools that allow physicians to pinpoint the location of cancer within the body before making treatment recommendations. The highly sensitive PET scan images the biology of disorders at the molecular level, while the CT scan provides a detailed picture of the body’s internal anatomy. The PET/CT scan combines the strengths of these two well-established imaging modalities into a single scan.

A CT scan is able to detect and localize changes in the body structure or anatomy, such as the size, shape and exact location of an abnormal growth, a sizeable tumor or a musculoskeletal injury.

A PET scan is very different from an ultrasound, X-ray, MRI, or CT scan. A PET scan allows the physician to distinguish between living and dead tissue or between benign and malignant disorders.

When disease strikes, the biochemistry of your tissues and cells change. In cancer, for example, cells begin to grow at a much faster rate. In one continuous whole-body scan, PET/CT captures images of changes in the body’s metabolism caused by actively growing cancer cells and provides a detailed picture of the body’s internal anatomy that reveals the size, shape and exact location of the abnormal cancerous growths.

The PET/CT scan begins with injection of a glucose-based radiopharmaceutical which travels through the body, eventually collecting in the organs and tissues targeted for examination.

The patient lies flat on a table that moves incrementally through the PET/CT scanner. The CT portion of the exam sends X-rays through the body which are then measured by detectors in the CT scanner.

The PET scanner has cameras that detect the gamma rays emitted from the patient, and turns those into electrical signals. These are processed by a computer to generate the images. The table moves slowly through the scanner and many sets of PET and CT images are produced.

The CT and PET images are assembled by the computer into a 3-D image of the patient’s body. If an area is cancerous, the signals will be stronger there than in surrounding tissue, since more of the radiopharmaceutical will be absorbed in those areas.

All sounds very exciting – but either way really we just want a good result . He is getting concerned about the level of pain across the top of his stomach and is now having sleepless nights imaging the tumour traveling through his body . I alternate between impersonating an ostrich and pretending no scans are due at all , whatever their alphabetical acronym, and thinking any knowledge is better than these dark imaginings.

Looks as though August 3rd is our new D-day

A new countdown begins

No sooner does one countdown end than a new one begins. Instead of our lives being ruled by chemotherapy appointments, it is now ruled by scans. Already 29 July is zooming towards us, with its needles and hospital waiting rooms, but also the crucial question of has any of it been worthwhile ?

Two weeks to go, already it sits constantly in the back of our minds. Sometimes it may be buried a little deeper, but it is always sitting there ominously in the corner, like a gathering storm cloud.

Both of us feel continually anxious the PET scan will show new active cancer , our lives now feel totally on hold. Almost feels like tempting fate to even talk about the future. Getting a grip on this is proving really tough, rather like getting the initial diagnosis all over again.

In honour of Peter, another meso warrior, his favourite quote seems appropriate….

“Life may not be the party we’d hoped for, but while we are here, we may as well dance”

Reducing carbohydrate to slow tumour growth – the latest research

Recent  studies have suggested  that many of the mesothelioma victims beating the odds and living longer than their doctors would have predicted are those that don’t rely solely on traditional treatment. Often cancer patients find that alterations in diet and lifestyle can contribute positively to their remission.

Researchers at the British Columbia Cancer Research Centre in Canada are claiming a diet low in carbohydrates and high in protein can slow tumor growth. Their study has thus far only be conducted with mice, but the scientists believe their results are “definitive enough that an effect in humans can be considered.”

Mesothelioma tumors are particularly difficult to treat because they are widespread and irregularly shaped. Therefore, any action that can be taken to reduce tumor size naturally is welcome news. “Many cancer patients are interested in making changes in areas that they can control, and this study definitely lends credence to the idea that a change in diet can be beneficial,” explains George Prendergast, Ph.D., CEO of the Wynnewood, Pennsylvania-based Lankenau Institute for Medical Research.

According to the paper published in the journal Cancer Research, the Canadian scientists’ findings suggest tumor cells require significantly more glucose to grow and thrive than normal cells. Carbohydrates increase blood glucose and insulin levels, thereby providing the products necessary to promote tumor growth. When protein intake is increased carbohydrate intake is decreased, there is consistently slower tumor growth.

Have seen some other studies suggesting glucose feeds cancer cells, on the other hand, keep being told how important it is to keep his weight and energy levels up for which you need carbohydrates.

Currently he is 67 kg,  which has held steady over the last couple of months, it had dropped to 65 kg before Christmas but the supplements have helped. He now takes the off one during the day but is trying to make sure he is back on real food for most of the time.

Managed another short cycle ride today but is now totally shattered so off early to bed.  Going to have some challenging times in August , within the family only his mum and dad know the diagnosis, August is birthday month, when his brothers and the rest of the family will all expect to meet up, so the race is on to at least look relatively well , so suspicions aren’t raised.

no chemotherapy tomorrow- hurray!!

And the good news is , day 21 but nothing due tomorrow, first time in months . Time now to really start to recover from the treatment if not the cancer. Good news is  out on bicycle yesterday and today. 6 miles yesterday and 10 miles today , along the towpaths of the Thames.

Gets out of breath quickly and tends to feel the effects of the cycling with increased soreness , but definitely worth the effort as gives him a definite boost. Now we just need a good news scan and his hair to regrow!!

Started my one week cookery course today –  whole day at school and brought home chopped vegetables and houmous. Shows he is feeling better as he offered to cook dinner , lucky really , means he can have stir fry tomorrow ( with beautifully chopped vegetables of course )

Tomorrow all the drugs stop – end of the folic acid and the levemopromazine, so back to basics and an end to drug charts and side effects. Plus the sun was out today , so all in the garden blooming ( with a little watering of course). One really nice place to sit amongst the flowers , but you have to be quick  to sit there……….

Last day at work and news of another mesothelioma survivor

Came across details of another mesothelioma survivor today, there are so few around the world feel as though I know them all personally .

The Mesothelioma Cancer Alliance is excited to welcome mesothelioma survivor, Heather Von St. James to our outreach and advocacy efforts. Heather was diagnosed with mesothelioma in 2005 after she developed fatigue, anemia, and shortness of breath due to fluid effusion in her chest. Heather was diagnosed just three and a half months after the birth of her daughter, Lily.

Typical mesothelioma prognosis is poor, with most patients surviving only twelve to eighteen months beyond diagnosis. Heather’s choices included forgoing treatment and living perhaps fifteen months, pursuing traditional chemotherapy and radiation for a slightly extended prognosis, or pursuing one of the less conventional surgical treatment methods.

Upon evaluating her options, Heather elected to undergo a radical surgical procedure called extrapleural pneumonectomy, performed by esteemed thoracic surgeon Dr. David Sugarbaker through the International Mesothelioma Program at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston. Heather then received adjuvant chemotherapy and radiation and was eventually declared cancer free.

More than 5 years later, Heather now serves as a beacon of hope and courage for all those diagnosed with mesothelioma.

Along with all the meso issues,  also elected to take voluntary redundancy. made the decision back in February but taken a while to work through notice period – but that’s it my last day has now arrived, out last night for a few beers, so feeling slightly jaded today.

As reality kicks in , feeling very wobbly , hopefully new part time job in September will work out , still if not , sure something else will come along to keep the wolf from the door.

Now have just under two full months to concentrate on spending time together, the idea being to enjoy some nice times as he starts to recover from effects of the chemotherapy. At least we didn’t have the trip into London today to see Jeremy Steele, or the worry about the next treatment on Tuesday.

At the moment, he is very breathless , really sore eyes and achy all over, pretty typical symptoms for chemo there then. Emotionally he is very down, keeping my fingers firmly crossed that by next weekend, additional week of recovery will start to deliver some benefits – doesn’t have to be a lot but he really does need something to hold on too, some upturn in his health , however small.

Anxiety is also kicking in , still find getting a good nights sleep unobtainable, the levemopromazine helps with this , by calming him down. He is just taking a quarter tablet , but no longer really focussed on the anti nausea effect, more the slight sedative effect. I do wonder , given previous experience, whether this is also depressing his mood.

The crappy weather doesn’t help- where’s the sunshine now  I am off work ?

Hopefully will be a good British Grand Prix for him to watch this weekend, followed by some decent weather next week , which he can start to enjoy. I have a cookery course next week- so expect tales of beheading fish and burning  cakes .

The Olympic tickets have been purchased – so beach volleyball in 2012 here we come – that has to be worth fighting for .