Genetics May Affect Mesothelioma

How Genetics May Affect Mesothelioma

Mesothelioma is a particularly virulent type of cancer with one known cause – exposure to asbestos fibers. Approximately 80 percent of diagnosed mesothelioma cases can be definitively linked to asbestos exposure, generally over a long period of time, and usually in an occupational setting. However, not everyone who was exposed to asbestos develops the deadly cancer but genetics may affect mesothelioma. Researchers estimate that between 2 and 10 percent of those with heavy, long-term exposure to asbestos eventually develop pleural mesothelioma, which is the most common type of the cancer.

Genetics May Affect Mesothelioma

Because of this, cancer researchers have long believed that there must be other risk factors that make certain people more susceptible to the harm caused by inhaled asbestos fibers. Over the past 20 years, a number of studies have focused on finding a genetic factor that might increase the risk of developing mesothelioma. In the past few years, researchers have zeroed in on several specific gene clusters that appear to be implicated as a risk factor for the deadly disease.

Early Genetic Research in Mesothelioma

Scientists first became interested in finding a genetic risk factor for mesothelioma in the 1960s, when they noted that the cancer appeared to be more prevalent in families. Over the years, genetic research has identified several gene clusters that appear to influence whether or not a person exposed to asbestos eventually develops the cancer. Researchers have found that abnormalities in genes that suppress tumors can increase the risk of mesothelioma in people who are heavily exposed to asbestos. In the same way, abnormalities in the genes that help combat carcinogens, including glutathione-S-transferase M1 (GSTM1) and N-acetyltransferase (NAT2) , can greatly increase the risk of developing mesothelioma after exposure to asbestos fibers.

The BAP1 Gene and Mesothelioma

In 2011, researchers at University of Hawaii Cancer Center and Fox Chase Cancer Center in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania found a clear connection between family members with malignant mesothelioma and a specific gene, known as BAP1. The study focused on two families with a high incidence of mesothelioma. Researchers found that every one of the family members who were diagnosed with the illness also had a specific mutation of the BAP1 gene. They also studied 26 people who were diagnosed with the disease, but who had no family history of mesothelioma. They found that 25 percent of that group also carried the BAP1 mutation. Since that study, other researchers have confirmed the results. The implications for mesothelioma treatment are enormous.

Genetic Testing for Mesothelioma

One of the reasons that mesothelioma is so deadly is that it often goes undiagnosed until the cancer is too advanced to respond to most conventional treatments. As with other cancers, the earlier it is diagnosed, the more positive the prognosis will be. Because the symptoms of mesothelioma are so similar to many more common diseases, it often goes undetected until it is too late to treat it effectively. A simple screening test can identify the the mutated gene, which is also associated with the development of several other types of cancer. If the test identifies the mutation, doctors could advise patients on ways to avoid other risk factors – cautioning them against asbestos exposure, for example – and arrange for a schedule of screenings to watch for symptoms and changes to the mesothelial tissues that signal the development of mesothelioma.

BAP1 and Mesothelioma Prognosis

While the existence of the mutated BAP1 gene adds to the risk of developing meshothelioma, there is a silver lining. Researchers have also discovered that the presence of the mutation also seems to improve the prognosis of those diagnosed with malignant mesothelioma. In 2014, a mesothelioma study published in Carcinogenesis found that mesothelioma patients with the BAP1 mutation had significantly better survival rates than those without the mutation. Specifically, researchers at the University of Hawaii Cancer Center found that 47 percent of patients who carried the gene mutation reached the five year survival rate in comparison to 6.7% of the control group, who had been diagnosed with the cancer but did not carry the mutated gene. Even more dramatically, the researchers found that the median survival rate for the BAP1 patients diagnosed with peritoneal mesothelioma was 10 years, while the median survival rate for the same cancer in non-BAP1 patients is 6-12 months after diagnosis.

The University of Hawaii Cancer Center research has led to new medical protocols for cancer patients, including more frequent screenings for those who carry the BAP1 gene mutation, which is also associated with a number of other cancers. The more frequent screenings may lead to earlier diagnosis of the killer cancers, and improve the possibility of more successful treatment.

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Stop Asbestos Trade

Global Asbestos Trade Continues to Grow Despite Calls for a Universal Ban

Asbestos, an umbrella term that applies to minerals that form fine fibers when broken or crushed, has been known to cause mesothelioma and other cancers since the 1960s. Most industrialized nations have banned asbestos trade and use, but there are notable exceptions, among them some of the fastest growing economies in the world. While most people believe that the dangers of asbestos exposure has declined, thanks to the widely publicized bans in the United States, Canada, Australia and other industrialized nations, in fact, millions of people around the world are exposed to asbestos on a daily basis, and its use worldwide continues to grow. This is despite the fact that we now know it is so deadly that it has been called the “Silent Killer,” and countries throughout the world have been calling for a universal ban on its mining, manufacture, importation and use.

The History of Asbestos Bans

U.S. Asbestos Bans

Efforts to regulate and eventually ban the use of asbestos in the United States began in the late 1960s, after a series of lawsuits publicized the dangers of the mineral fibers. Research has shown that more than 80 percent of diagnosed cases of mesothelioma, one of the deadliest types of cancer, resulted from occupational or environmental exposer to asbestos. The Clean Air Act of 1970 identified asbestos as an air pollutant and gave the Environmental Protection Agency the power to regulate the use of asbestos. It also banned the use of spray-on forms of asbestos. A subsequent series of regulatory bills gave the EPA further powers to regulate asbestos, and mandated regular inspection and remediation of asbestos found in schools. In 1989, the EPA issued the Asbestos Ban and Phase-out Rule, which was meant to eventually ban the use of all asbestos products in the United States. That rule is the one most people believe banned asbestos use in the U.S. In fact, within a year, the ban was halted by a court ruling in a lawsuit against the EPA. Based on that ruling, the EPA was limited in its power to further regulate or ban products that had already been in use before July 21, 1989. As a consequence, the EPA is only allowed to regulate six categories of asbestos-containing products, including spray-on products. It is still used in gaskets, fireproof clothing, brake pads and roofing materials.

International Asbestos Bans

Meanwhile, countries in other parts of the world had begun to ban the manufacture, use and sale of asbestos. By the time the EPA rule was struck down in the U.S., Iceland, Norway, Sweden, Denmark and Hungary had all banned asbestos from use. In the 1990s, another 13 countries banned the importation, use, sale or manufacture of at least some forms of asbestos. Those countries included Japan, Germany and the UK. As of 2016, 60 countries have essentially banned asbestos, except for in very limited uses.

The Global Asbestos Trade Market

Despite the widespread bans, the use of asbestos throughout the world continues to grow. According to the latest statistics available (2015), worldwide asbestos trade is worth about $319 million annually, with most of the profits accruing to four countries: China, Russia, India and Brazil. Interestingly, four of the largest states in Brazil banned the use of asbestos in construction in the 1990s, but it hasn’t stopped the export of asbestos to other countries. In China, India, and Russia, the value of the asbestos trade has increased steadily year after year. Between 2007 and 2015, the Chinese asbestos market grew by about 39% annually, while India’s increased about 8 percent a year. As a result, world health experts estimate that 107,000 people die of asbestos-related diseases annually, and another 125 million are exposed to asbestos at work, putting them at risk of developing mesothelioma and other asbestos-related diseases.

The Push for a Universal Asbestos Ban

The World Health Organization has been working towards a worldwide asbestos ban since 2005. In 2013, it introduced an action plan with the goal of banning asbestos and asbestos-containing products in all of its member nations and states by 2020. The International Ban Asbestos Secretariat, an organization founded by occupational health experts and anti-asbestos advocates, has called for a complete ban on the use of asbestos. as have the American Public Health Association, the World Federation of Public Health Organizations, the International Commission on Occupational Health and the International Trade Union Confederation. However, those calls for a ban face stiff opposition from those in the asbestos industry and related trades, which regularly spend hundreds of millions of dollars annually lobbying governments to weaken, delay or otherwise reduce regulation of the poison on which they make their profit.

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Cancer Clinical Trials

Cancer Clinical Trials – What You Need to Know

For someone facing a diagnosis of malignant mesothelioma, cancer clinical trials often present the best chance for improving their prognosis and living a longer, more comfortable life. This is especially true now, as researchers and doctors around the world are making fundamental discoveries about the role that genetics plays in both the development of cancer and the possibility of developing effective, targeted and individualized treatments for mesothelioma and other cancers. There are currently dozens of clinical trials exploring new options for treating cancer, including all forms of mesothelioma, but not all clinical trials are appropriate for every cancer patient. Understanding how cancer clinical trials work, how patients are selected for them, and how to learn more about them can help patients and their families evaluate their treatment options and decide on the best course of treatment for them.

Cancer Clinical Trials 101

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration requires that all new drugs, treatments and diagnostic methods undergo a schedule of testing before they will grant approval and release it to the general public. The clinical trials help detail how effective the treatment is, what side effects patients may encounter, and the best methodology for implementing the treatment. They are a vital tool in developing and releasing new drugs, treatments and diagnostic methods for cancer and other diseases and conditions.

New drugs and treatments generally go through three phases of clinical trials, each expanding the number of human patients participating. In general, by the time a new treatment reaches the clinical trial phase, it has already been in development for an average of six years. Those six years will include studies, animal research and other types of research to determine whether the drug or treatment is likely to be useful in treating humans. Once the pre-clinical phase is complete, according to the American Cancer Society (ACS), it takes an average of eight years between the beginning of clinical trials and final approval. Each step of the way, the researchers and developers must follow specific protocols to ensure that their data and findings are correct and useful for human patients.

Understanding Clinical Trial Phases

Each phase of a clinical trial is designed to answer specific questions about the new treatment, and carries different benefits and risks to people who agree to take part in them. Knowing the phase of the clinical trials being considered can help patients decide whether they want to participate in them.

Phase 0 Cancer Clinical Trials – How Does It Work?

Phase 0 trials are not a required part of all testing, and there are few openings for volunteers to participate. These earliest stages of testing are designed to find out if an how a new drug or treatment works in human patients. They are usually very short term, and only involve a few participants. The ACS notes that participants in Phase 0 trial are unlikely to benefit personally from their participation. The information learned in this phase, however, can eventually benefit others. At the same time, the risks of participating in a Phase 0 study are minimal, since the dosages are generally very low, and the duration of treatment is short.

Phase 1 Cancer Clinical Trials – Is It Safe?

The focus of Phase 1 clinical trials is the safety of the treatment. It is the first phase of the studies that involves a significant number of patients, and the researchers focus on possible side effects and dangers, as well as attempting to determine the highest and most effective dosages of new drugs and/or proposed treatments. Phase 1 studies are usually carried out at major medical centers, which may limit the possibility of participation. In addition, this early phase carries the largest potential risk for participants, and is not designed to test how effective a new treatment is against cancer. They usually only involve a few dozen participants, and are generally open to people diagnosed with many different types of cancer.

Phase 2 Cancer Clinical Trials – How Well Does It Work?

In Phase 2 trials, researchers are looking for evidence that the new treatment or drug actually works against specific cancers using specific measures. They may be looking for reduction or elimination of tumors and other evidence that the protocol being tested actually has a benefit in fighting cancer. They usually involve 100 or so volunteer participants, and are most often carried out at major medical centers and cancer treatment centers, but may also be carried out in doctors offices and community hospitals. Researchers also continue looking for side effects, since the larger number of participants increases the possibility that they will find specific interactions that may not have been evident in smaller groups. Participants may receive the actual treatment, or a placebo.

Phase 3 Cancer Clinical Trials – Is It Better than Existing Cancer Treatments?

Phase 3 clinical trials are designed to measure the effectiveness of the proposed treatment, and compare it to current standard treatments for cancer. They generally include several hundred participants, and are carried out in settings across the country and around the world. While participants in Phase 3 trials may receive a placebo, if there is a current standard treatment for their type of cancer, the placebo will be given along with the standard treatment. This increases the chance that participants will benefit from the new treatment. Phase 3 trials are safer than the earlier stages because researchers already know how to limit and eliminate those who are most likely to have adverse reactions to the new treatment.

Phase 4 Cancer Trials – What Else Can We Learn?

The safest of the phases, Phase 4 clinical trials are designed to answer important questions beyond safety and effectiveness of a new treatment. They happen after a new drug has been approved by the FDA, and generally involve thousands of patients in hundreds of settings. The risks of participation are low, since earlier stages have established the safety of the treatment, the most effective dosages and durations, and potential interactions that may height risk or improve the effectiveness of the treatment.

What to Consider

When deciding whether a particular clinical trial is right for you, it’s important to consider a number of factors, including these:

  • Is it appropriate for the type of cancer you have?
  • Is it being held at a location near you, or to which you can travel?
  • Are the risks ones that you are willing to accept?
  • Do the possible benefits outweigh the risks?
  • What does your oncologist think?
  • How will the proposed treatment affect your family?

Cancer clinical trials are especially important for those diagnosed with one of the forms of mesothelioma because so few effective treatment options exist. The current clinical trials, and ones that will open in the foreseeable future, include treatments as well as new diagnostic methods that could identify mesothelioma at earlier stages, opening the door to using more effective drugs and conventional therapies against this deadly form of cancer.

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Asbestos Around the House

Asbestos continues to be a concern because of its widespread use during the 1900s for both residential and commercial construction. While the dangers of asbestos have been widely known for centuries, the asbestos industry conspired to hide its hazards from the government and consumers for decades. Because of this – and because of the building booms of the early and mid 20th centuries – asbestos made its way into millions of homes. In 2011, The Guardian, a UK newspaper, estimated that more than 50% of homes in the UK harbored asbestos-containing materials. In the U.S., any home built before 1974 is likely to have been built or renovated using materials that contain asbestos. Here’s what you need to know about how and where to find asbestos in your home, and what you should do about it if you find it.

When Was Your Home Built?

Asbestos is most commonly present in homes built before 1974, when asbestos-containing materials were banned for construction uses. In the interests of caution, some experts suggest checking for asbestos in any home built before 1979. It’s important to remember that just the presence of asbestos in your home isn’t a cause for panic. It only becomes dangerous when the material is damaged, releasing asbestos fibers into the air where they can be inhaled. That’s why renovations and repairs in homes built before 1980 can be hazardous to your family’s health. In most cases, experts recommend leaving the materials in place and covering them to prevent accidentally disturbing them.

Where to Look for Asbestos in Your Home

Asbestos was used in many different products for home construction and repair, including floor and ceiling tiles, roof shingles, siding, pipe cement, joint compound, sheetrock and all types of insulation, including insulation around ducts, fireplaces, boilers and sheeting. It was used in attic insulation and wall insulation, as well as in some types of paint. Generally, if you’re planning to do any major renovation in an older home, you should expect that you might encounter asbestos.

If you’re starting to think that finding asbestos in your older home may be difficult, you’re right. You can’t tell that something contains asbestos just by looking at it. In most cases, the presence of asbestos can only be definitely determined by microscopic examination and expert testing. However, these are some of the most common places where you might find asbestos in an older home and what you can do about them.

Floors

  • Floor tiles installed before 1980, particularly those that measure 9″x9″, 12″x12″, or 18″x18″. In most cases, it’s better to leave these tiles in place rather than remove them. You can reduce the risk by encasing or covering the floor – pouring cement over it, for example. If you must remove the tiles, most states have regulations about how the work must be carried out. It’s often safest to hire an expert to do the job.
  • Vinyl flooring containing asbestos was also commonly used until the 1980s, and flooring adhesive used to lay flooring also frequently contained asbestos. As with the floor tiles, most experts agree that it’s safer to encase the floor than it is to try to remove it.

Ceilings

  • Popcorn ceilings were very popular in homes in the 1960s and 1970s. The textured paint treatment often contained asbestos, a well-known fire retardant. If you want to remove a popcorn ceiling, it’s best to test the paint for asbestos. If asbestos is found, consider having the work done by an experienced asbestos removal contractor.
  • Acoustic ceiling tiles and drop ceilings installed before 1980 are likely to contain asbestos. These ceilings are prone to damage which might release asbestos into the air. If you’re planning to remove drop ceilings in an older home, check with your state’s environmental agency for any regulations concerning removal. Many state agencies maintain lists of experts you can consult to determine whether the tiles contain asbestos.

Walls

  • Drywall and paneling in homes built between 1930 and 1980 may contain asbestos. Plain drywall most often used in single family homes most often did not, but the heavier sheetrock panels used between units in multi-family dwellings often did. In single-family homes, decorative paneling, such as faux-brick panels, often contained asbestos.
  • Mud and joint compound used to cover seams between panels, however, almost always contained asbestos. Even if the drywall panels are asbestos-free, removing or destroying old walls and paneling carries the risk of releasing asbestos into the air. As with floors and ceilings, it’s recommended that you treat the materials as if they do contain asbestos unless you determine that they definitively don’t.

Insulation

  • Foam insulation around plumbing, pipes and boilers often contains asbestos. More often than not, experts recommend encasing the asbestos to prevent it being disturbed.
  • Sheet insulation and insulating tape around pipes often contained asbestos.
  • Vermiculite attic insulation, particularly loose vermiculite insulation, was commonly used in the 1950s and 1960s.

If your home was built before 1989, the year that the EPA finally banned all forms of insulation with asbestos, you should always suspect that older insulation contains asbestos. Your state environmental agency maintains a list of labs and experts qualified to determine whether or not asbestos is present in the materials, and who can recommend the best way to deal with them.

Home Exteriors

Asbestos is commonly found in siding, tiles and roofs of homes built or renovated between 1900 and 1980. Because any work done on the exterior of a home will potentially release asbestos fibers into the neighborhood, many states strictly regulate who can do the work and how it must be done. There are experts who can evaluate roofing tiles, house siding and other materials on older houses to determine if they contain asbestos.

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Different types of asbestos mesothelioma explained

Types of Asbestos

What is asbestos, exactly? Unlike many chemicals and substances that have been found to be harmful, asbestos is not a specific mineral or substance, and has no defined chemical structure. The word itself doesn’t refer to a specific mineral. Instead, it’s a commercial term for a group of minerals that form strong, flexible, durable fibers rather than the crystalline structure we usually associate with minerals. The Toxic Substances Control Act of 1976 defines six types of asbestos, based on the mineral from which they are manufactured. The six minerals are chrysotile, amosite, crocidolite, tremolite, anthophyllite and actinolite. These minerals are not themselves “asbestos.” Rather, they are minerals that can form into fibers which can then be woven into asbestos for commercial use. Each of them has been used in various ways throughout history, and some are more toxic than others.

Serpentine Form

Asbestos is further classified as falling under two types – serpentine and amphibole. The only one of the six regulated forms of asbestos to form serpentine fibers is chrysotile asbestos, which accounts for most of the asbestos used commercially in the U.S. and throughout the world.

Chrysotile – White Asbestos

Chrysotile asbestos is the most widely used type of asbestos, accounting for nearly 95% of asbestos used commercially throughout the world. It was incorporated into paint, wall boards, roofing tiles and floor tiles as an element of fireproofing, and is still found in many residential and commercial buildings. Chrysotile asbestos is also found in pipe insulation, automobile brake linings and in seals for boilers and gaskets. Because of its wide use, even countries that ban other types of asbestos often allow the use of chrysotile asbestos under certain conditions. That doesn’t mean it’s safer than other types of asbestos – it’s a known carcinogen, as has been proven by multiple studies. The reason that it’s exempted from most bans is that the asbestos industry has a long history of lobbying for its use.

Form: Serpentine

Of all known types of asbestos, chrysotile is the only one in the serpentine family. It forms long, curly fibers that are finer than amphibole asbestos, and is more suitable for most applications than other types of asbestos.  It is also commonly known as white asbestos.

Chrysotile Asbestos – Toxicity

Exposure to chrysolite asbestos has been linked to lung cancer, mesothelioma, ovarian cancer and laryngeal cancer. It is often contaminated with trace amounts of tremolite, which is considered more toxic, but some reports show that exposure to chrysotile alone can be just as toxic as exposure to amphibole asbestos. The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health has stated that chrysolite asbestos should be treated with the same concern and caution as amphibole asbestos.

Chrysotile Asbestos Uses

Chrysotile asbestos has been used (and in some cases continues to be used) in:

  • Insulation
  • Brake pads
  • Brake linings
  • Gaskets
  • Cement
  • Roofing materials
  • Joint compound

Amphibole Asbestos

The remaining five types of asbestos used commercially all fall under the amphibole classification. Amphibole fibers are more brittle, and can break off with sharp edges. Traditionally, amphibole forms are considered more toxic than chrysotile.

Amosite – Brown Asbestos

Amosite is a commercial name for asbestos that was mined in Africa. In fact, its name comes from the acronym Asbestos Mines of South Africa, the company that mined most of the amosite in use. It is commonly known as brown asbestos, and was most frequently used in cement sheet and pipe insulation. The Environmental Protection Agency names amosite as the second most commonly used type of asbestos in the United States.

Amosite – Toxicity

Numerous studies have found that amosite, like most amphibole asbestos, is more dangerous than chrysolite, and requires far less exposure to cause harm than other forms. The American Cancer Society says that exposure to amosite carries a higher risk of cancer than exposure to other types. It has been associated with lung cancer, mesothelioma and asbestosis.

Amosite – Uses

Amosite was used in:

  • Thermal, plumbing and chemical insulation
  • Insulation boards
  • Cement sheets
  • Electrical insulation
  • Roofing tiles, ceiling tiles, floor tiles
  • Roofing products
  • Gaskets
  • Fire protection

Crocidolite – Blue Asbestos

Crocidolite, also known as blue asbestos, is also found in South Africa, as well as in Bolivia and Australia. It is widely considered to be the most deadly form of asbestos, with some reports estimating that up to 18% of crocidolite miners died of mesothelioma, and some studies suggest that people living near crocidolite mines have a higher risk of asbestos-related illnesses.

Crocidolite – Toxicity

Crocidolite forms fibers about the diameter of a strand of hair. Because of their fineness, the fibers can be inhaled and lodge in the linings of the lungs more easily than other types of asbestos. Many studies suggest that because of this, exposure to crocidolite may be more deadly than other exposures. Crocidolite has been associated with mesothelioma, lung cancer and asbestosis.

Crocidolite – Uses

Crocidolite is less heat resistant than other types of asbestos, which limited its industrial uses, but it still made its way into many products used in construction.

  • Spray-on insulation
  • Ceiling tiles
  • Chemical insulation
  • Insulation boards
  • Water encasement
  • Cement sheets
  • Millboards
  • Electrical wires

Tremolite

Tremolite is not mined on its own, but can be found in other minerals, including vermiculite and talc. The amphibole fibers are strong and heat-resistant, and can be woven into cloth. It was extensively used in household and industrial products through the 1970s.

Tremolite – Toxicity

Like other amphibole forms, tremolite is considered to be more hazardous than chrysolite. Exposure to tremolite increases the risk of lung cancer, mesothelioma, asbestosis, laryngeal cancer and ovarian cancer. Tremolite is often found in minerals like vermiculite and talc. One of the most notorious asbestos-related cases in U.S. history occurred at the vermiculite mines in Libby, Montana, where dozens of miners and local residents were exposed to tremolite over a period of decades.

Tremolite – Uses

Tremolite was widely used in heat-proof and insulating products, including:

  • Paints
  • Insulation
  • Sealants
  • Roofing materials
  • Plumbing materials

Non-commercial Asbestos – Anthophyllite, Actinolite

The remaining types of asbestos have never been mined or used commercially, but exist as contaminants in commercial asbestos where they can contribute to the exposure risk.

Anthophyllite

Anthophyllite occurs largely as a contaminant in other minerals, such as talc or vermiculite. Studies have shown that it can cause lung cancer and other asbestos-related diseases. A study of miners in Finland suggested that exposure to anthophyllite increases the risk of lung cancer more than it does of mesothelioma.

Actinolite

Actinolite is usually used alongside other materials, such as talc and vermiculite. When used together with vermiculite, for example, it makes a lightweight, effective insulation material, and was frequently used that way until the early 1970s. Because of its widespread use for insulation and fireproofing, actinolite can still be found in many residences and commercial buildings in the United States.

Have you or a loved one been diagnosed with Mesothelioma and would like help with health and legal services? Call us at (855) 970-9988 for help today.

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