Thoracic surgeon Dr. Robert Cameron remembers well — it wasn’t that long ago — when a diagnosis of pleural mesothelioma cancer automatically came with a gloom-and-doom tone.
Those days are gone.
His 7th annual International Symposium on Mesothelioma at UCLA on Sept. 30 will accentuate the substantial recent progress.
“Over the past five years, we’ve seen unprecedented advances in mesothelioma research that we never would have predicted a decade ago,” said Cameron, chief of thoracic surgery at the West Los Angeles VA Medical Center. “And our intensive collaboration today between laboratory and clinical scientists is yielding new insight into promising future treatment.”
Cameron, a pioneer in mesothelioma surgical treatment, will serve as the symposium chair of the upcoming event, which presents medical professionals, patients and families an opportunity to learn more about the latest advances and the hope that has emerged.
Cameron, who is also director of the UCLA Mesothelioma Comprehensive Research Program, will be one of several experts speaking at the daylong event.
The lineup of mesothelioma experts and topics includes:
Cameron also will speak about engineering mesenchymal stem cells for immunotherapy.
Clare Cameron, who is the executive director of the Pacific Mesothelioma Center (PMC) and not related to Dr. Robert Cameron, will talk about resources for research. Lein Hua-Feng, a nurse practitioner at PMC, will discuss the benefits of caregiver support groups.
“The symposium will provide an unrivaled opportunity for both the medically savvy and general public, including mesothelioma patients,” Clare Cameron said. “You’ll hear about the most promising medical advances, and promising new research.”
The symposium arrives on the heels of an anonymous $1 million donation to the PMC, where Dr. Cameron serves as scientific advisor.
The grant will be used to support a molecular biologist and an immunologist working on potential immunotherapies for mesothelioma.
Immunotherapy, which has shown effectiveness in other cancers, involves enhancing a patient’s own immune system to fight off the cancer cells. The treatment, which isn’t approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for mesothelioma, is available only through clinical trials and with special access exceptions.
Cameron believes, though, that future treatment advances will involve a combination of different emerging immunotherapies, along with traditional treatment such as surgery and chemotherapy.
“For the first time ever, we are seeing real benefits of immunotherapy for mesothelioma,” he said. “I believe it holds great promise for finally improving the survival of patients with this formally fatal disease.”