Annual Report 2006
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I am honored to be the new Chairperson of the Mesothelioma Applied Research Foundation’s Board of
Directors. My fi rst meso patients were in 1978 – two sisters who had been exposed to asbestos during World
War II when they were employed to build liberty ships. I enjoyed getting to know them and was immediately
struck by the possibility that genetic infl uences impacted on asbestos-induced malignancy. Sadly, neither
of them had much benefi t from the only available drug that we had at that time, doxyrubicin.
Today, nearly 30 years later, our knowledge of mesothelioma has advanced dramatically, as have the
treatment options. Meso Foundation grants are helping advance the science in critical ways. For example,
Meso Foundation-supported researchers Dr. Joseph Testa and Dr. Deborah Altomare at Fox Chase Cancer
Center have found that the neurofi bromatosis-2 gene is mutated in approximately 50% of meso patients.
Why this is etiologic for meso is unclear; but we do know that mutation of the NF2 gene leads to loss of
the NF2 protein merlin, which would normally inhibit the ERK signaling that occurs following exposure
to asbestos and leads to malignancy. One can now imagine that mutation of the neurofi bromatosis
gene was the common genetic link leading to meso in the two sisters, and in many other patients. Such
detailed scientifi c hypotheses are now being explored by scientists worldwide, and this is very promising
for understanding the meso tumor and developing powerful new treatments to stop it.
Th e Foundation’s International Symposium provides these scientists the opportunity to share their results
and ideas with each other and with the patient community, and in 2006 we had our 3rd successful meeting.
For the fi rst time, the scientifi c presentations were interpreted for the patients and families. Meanwhile,
the International Mesothelioma Interest Gr