Treatment of Mesothelioma and the Embrace in Sentate

Jun 22 2005 - 12:18am

Mesothelioma Treatment and Cure Hope

The U.S. Senate has taken an historic step in acknowledging the responsibility of both the federal government and industry to fund research for a cure for malignant mesothelioma, a cancer of the lung, heart and abdominal linings associated with asbestos exposure.

SB 852, the proposed Fairness in Asbestos Injury Resolution Act, was recently amended to include a National Mesothelioma Research and Treatment Program. The bill would allocate $29 million per year for 10 years to meso research. Of this, the asbestos trust fund contributors would pay $17 million per year, and the government, through the National Institutes of Health, would contribute $12 million per year.

The program would provide $2.5 million per year each to ten national medical centers for research on the detection, prevention, treatment and cure of meso. The centers would be selected through a competitive peer review process that would evaluate such factors as their track record for exemplary laboratory and clinical research, geographic distribution, proximity to high incidence areas, and affiliation with Veterans Administration hospitals (noting that "veterans... have suffered excessively from mesothelioma").

The first-ever program also would establish a meso registry and a tissue bank. The registry would help collect data on patients' symptoms, treatment, outcomes and quality of life. Unlike Australia and most European countries, the U.S. does not have a system for tracking meso. The Tissue Bank would help researchers study blood and tissue in the effort to unlock the mysteries on how to control this deadly cancer.

"This is an important first step," said Roger Worthington, the founder of the Mesothelioma Applied Research Foundation, which has advocated the creation of the program for the past three years. "We thank Senator Herb Kohl for his leadership in championing this long overdue program, and Senators Patrick Leahy and Arlen Specter for recognizing its importance."

MARF had originally sought a separate federal appropriation for the research program, asserting that the government's duty to help asbestos cancer patients was essential on in its own, and should not be tied to the fortunes of a controversial asbestos trust fund bill. However, Senator Kohl recognized that the trust fund bill's focus solely on economic aspects of "asbestos injury" wrongly ignored the need to address the human suffering itself, and he therefore worked to incorporate MARF's proposed meso research program into the trust fund bill.



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