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  • Writer's pictureKirk Hartley

Real Results – Median Survival of 48 Months After Mesothelioma Diagnosis- What’s Ahead?

4 years from mesothelioma diagnosis to death. Sad to say, but that is an extraordinarily favorable outcome for most persons with mesothelioma. Most persons diagnosed with mesothelioma die within a year of diagnosis.

So, what about this 48 months of survival? Was this a one-time oddity? No – quite the opposite is true. 48 months is the median survival time for a significantly large of persons with mesothelioma treated by a cutting edge physician and researcher, Dr. Harvey Pass (and colleagues).

Note again the number – it is a median survival number, so half of the 32 patients lived more than 48 months after the diagnosis. Persons living that long presumably can and will be present for trials regarding compensation claims.

How are Dr. Pass and colleagues achieving a median of four years of life after diagnosis ? For all the specifics, be in Chicago on Wednesday June 19 to hear Dr. Harvey Pass speak at Lynnsey Perrin’s conference on the latest in Mesothelioma and Lung Cancer. Part of the answer is that Dr. Pass and others are increasingly finding and treating mesotheliomas at stage 1 instead of stage 4 using a new biomarker created by today’s innovations in molecular science. It’s a biomarker far beyond anything else explored before. And the test is in existence today and headed to commercial sale by the commercial laboratory that developed the test. It is the future.

Multiple litigation-related questions arise from the results obtained by Dr. Pass and colleagues. One obvious question is: how many of the afflicted persons will end up filing suit and being alive to testify at trial ? Today, "living meso" trials are rare but that may well change with a growing number of persons surviving for many years. Another question is how quickly and widely the numbers of invovled patients will be multiplied through other teams replicating Dr. Pass’ approach.

Other questions arise from the possibility of combining multiple forms of mesothelioma treatment. For example, teams in Europe are extending survival with surgery and more for persons with stage 3 disease; they obtained five-year survival for 28% of their patients. Meanwhile, at Penn, doctors also are achieving significant extensions of life for persons with advanced disease using a combination of surgery and chemotherapy during the surgery. One wonders what happens to extension of life if the various modalities are brought together for persons initially identified at stage 1.

Other questions relate to the use of the biomarker test? How many research groups are using the biomarker test right now ? How many will be using it in a year? When the test becomes commercially available, what will pricing look like? Some indications are that it will be very affordable, and so one might expect unions and other groups to put the test into frequent use as part of screening programs for persons with significant past work with or around asbestos-containing products. Then, what happens when the test is approved for reimbursement by CMS (Medicare) – will mesothelioma screening become standard for persons whose work history places them into specific job classifications or with employers falling under specific classifications.

Like all cancer treatments, the treatments for mesothelioma are changing rapidly now the we are the front edge of the arrival of precision medicine. The June 19 Perrin conference on Mesothelioma and Lung Cancer will include several world-class doctors, several of whom are not involved in asbestos litigation as witnesses. But these physicians and researchers are driving mesothelioma research and treatment, and are thereby changing the future of asbestos litigation. One of the speakers will be Dr. Pass, and his accomplishments are truly impressive, to say the least. The short version is that Dr. Pass is a Phi Beta Kappa graduate of The Johns Hopkins University and Duke Medical School. In addition, Dr. Pass also completed a 3-year senior fellowship in the Thoracic Oncology Surgical Branch of the National Cancer Institute (NCI). Today, Dr. Pass is an author and editor of a treatise on lung cancer, and an incredible number of papers focused on treatment of mesotheliomas and lung cancer. Dr. Pass also heads up thoracic surgery and other programs at NYU-Langone. For more, Dr. Pass’ bio is online at NYU-Langone, where he also has headed up numerous projects.

Dr. Pass’ work is truly ground-breaking. In fact, it’s so good that his laboratory is now supported and funded by the National Cancer Institute, which is the U.S. Government agency focused on cancer research and lead by a Nobel Prize winning cancer researcher (Dr. Harold Varmus) who is determined to dramatically change and accelerate the course of cancer research and treatment. And, today, Dr. Pass’ laboratory at Bellevue Hospital is the home of the NCI-funded Early Detection Research Network Biomarker Discovery Laboratory for Mesothelioma, and the Clinical CORE for the NCI’s recently funded Mesothelioma Pathogenesis Program Project.

Dr. Pass also is an active leader of and chairman of the scientific board of the world’s best research group focused on mesothelioma – it is the international Mesothelioma interest group. At iMig’s 2012 bi-annual meeting, Dr. Pass was everywhere – he was involved in multiple talks, presentations and papers demonstrating remarkable gains in understanding the how and why of mesotheliomas. The 2012 world-wide conference iMig brought together scores of doctors and researchers now focusing on mesothelioma science. The next iMig meeting is set for October 2014 in Cape Town, South Africa.

As for the mesothelioma biomarker, it’s moving towards commercial sale, with a hoped-for commercial launch in 2014. But – today – this new mesothelioma biomarker already can be deployed in medical research and mesothelioma treatment. Imagine what more is ahead. Register now for the June 19 Perrin conference on Mesothelioma and Lung Cancer.

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