Top 10 Mesothelioma News Stories of 2017

Top news 2017

Every year, mesothelioma specialists and researchers make strides to advance the standard of care, improve treatment strategies and develop new diagnostic practices.

Mesothelioma remains a rare cancer, with an estimated 3,000 people diagnosed each year in the U.S., but the fight to find a cure only grows stronger.

And while researchers are busy finding breakthroughs in care, advocates are hard at work campaigning for a ban on asbestos, the main cause of mesothelioma.

This was a memorable year on both fronts.

Immunotherapy continues to be the hot topic among emerging treatments. Drugs such as pembrolizumab (Keytruda) and nivolumab (Opdivo) gained a lot of ground in clinical trials.

On the advocacy side, the U.S. remains one of the few industrialized countries to not have a full ban on asbestos. Anti-asbestos advocates are concerned about the future of legislation under new Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) administrator Scott Pruitt.

Meanwhile, Canada and Brazil are the latest countries to pledge a comprehensive asbestos ban.

Here are the most read and talked about mesothelioma news stories of 2017.

Trump and the FACT Act

In February, a U.S. House of Representatives judiciary committee approved the latest version of the Fairness in Class Action Litigation and Furthering Asbestos Claims Transparency Act, or FACT Act.

Previous iterations of the legislation have stalled in the U.S. Senate, with former President Barack Obama promising a veto if passed. But now anti-asbestos advocates fear the bill could gain ground under Donald Trump’s administration.

Learn why critics say the FACT Act will hurt those seeking compensation from asbestos claims.

Consumer Goods Giant Faces Asbestos Claims

Johnson & Johnson came under fire after unsealed documents showed the company knew its talcum powder products may have contained asbestos.

The pharmaceutical and consumer goods giant has faced more than 5,000 lawsuits linking talcum powder to ovarian cancer.

In November, J&J won the first trial centering on asbestos-contaminated talcum powder and mesothelioma.

Read about the Johnson & Johnson’s history with asbestos.

Keytruda Effective Against Mesothelioma

See how Keytruda continues to show promising results.

Controversy over EPA Pick

Anti-asbestos advocates expressed concern over the nomination and confirmation of Pruitt as the new head of the EPA.

As the Oklahoma attorney general, Pruitt led or participated in 14 lawsuits against the EPA. Now as its leader, critics fear Pruitt may delay the long-sought-after ban of asbestos in the U.S. and support legislation such as the Regulatory Accountability Act.

Learn about Pruitt’s background and stance on asbestos regulation.

Laws Expand for Medical Marijuana

Medical marijuana laws expanded following votes in the 2016 election, with five states passing legislation.

Those laws went into effect in 2017, increasing medical marijuana’s impact on the cancer community. Currently, 28 states and the District of Columbia have some form of medical marijuana law in place.

Read how cannabis is improving the lives of mesothelioma patients.

FDA Grants Landmark Approval for Keytruda

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) expanded approval for Keytruda in May as a first-line treatment for metastatic non-small cell lung cancer, moving it a significant step forward to becoming a standard-of-care option for pleural mesothelioma.

Keytruda continues to make promising strides in mesothelioma clinical trials, as a single agent and in combination with other immunotherapy drugs and chemotherapy.

Find out what the FDA approval means for mesothelioma patients.

Canada Shedding Asbestos Past

Canada is moving forward with their plan to ban the manufacture, use and import of asbestos in 2018.

The country has a deep history with the toxic mineral and was once the world’s largest producer of chrysotile asbestos.

Canadians continue to suffer from asbestos-related diseases — medically and financially. Mesothelioma and asbestos-related lung cancer costs Canadians an estimated $2.35 billion each year, according to a study published in July.

Discover Canada’s asbestos history and need for a ban.

CDC Reports Record Number of Mesothelioma Deaths

Learn why mesothelioma deaths are on the rise.

Opdivo and Yervoy Combo Brings High Expectations

Bristol-Myers Squibb is sponsoring a highly-anticipated phase III clinical trial testing the effectiveness of nivolumab (Opdivo) and ipilimumab (Yervoy) against unresectable pleural mesothelioma.

The trial — which includes investigational sites in 20 countries and 17 cancer centers across the U.S. — is measuring the drug combination against standard-of-care chemotherapy.

Find out what the trial may mean for mesothelioma research.

Vaccine Gives Hope for the Future

Researchers at the John A. Burns School of Medicine at the University of Hawaii hope a multiantigen mesothelioma vaccine can stop the cancer before it begins.

Currently in early development and testing on animal models, the vaccine targets specific proteins to induce an immune response.

However, unlike immunotherapy, this experimental vaccine focuses on prevention, designed for people at high risk for mesothelioma, not those already diagnosed with cancer.

Learn more about the multiantigen mesothelioma vaccine.

Writer and Editor

Matt Mauney is an award-winning journalist with more than a decade of professional writing and editing experience. He joined The Mesothelioma Center at in 2016, and he spends much of his time reading, analyzing and reporting on mesothelioma research articles to ensure people in the mesothelioma community know the latest medical advances. Prior to joining, Matt was a Community Manager at the Orlando Sentinel. Matt also edits pages, articles and other content on the website. He holds a certificate in health writing from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

23 Cited Article Sources

  1. Karmasek, J. (2017, February 15). Sponsor Expects Asbestos Bill to be part of Reform Package Supported by Trump.
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  2. Karmasek, J. (2017, February 24). U.S. House Panel Approves Asbestos ‘Double Dipping’ Litigation Reform Bills.
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  3. (n.d.). H.R. 906 Furthering Asbestos Claim Transparency (FACT) Act of 2017.
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  4. Feely, J., Fisk, M. and Hopkins, J. (2017, September 22). Johnson & Johnson alerted to risk of asbestos in talc in '70s, files show.
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  5. Hayes, P. (2017, September 14). Johnson & Johnson’s Newest Talc Problem? Asbestos.
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  6. Johnson & Johnson. (n.d.). 5 Important Facts About the Safety of Talc.
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  7. Penn Medicine News. (2017, March 20). Pembrolizumab Shows Promise in Treatment of Mesothelioma.
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  8. U.S. National Institutes of Health. (2017, March 9). Study of Pembrolizumab (MK-3475) in Participants With Advanced Solid Tumors (MK-3475-028/KEYNOTE-28).
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  9. Alley, E. et al. (2017, March 10). Clinical safety and activity of pembrolizumab in patients with malignant pleural mesothelioma (KEYNOTE-028): preliminary results from a non-randomised, open-label, phase 1b trial. 30169-9/fulltext
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  10. U.S. Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works. (2017, January 18). Questions for the Record for the Honorable E. Scott Pruitt.
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  11. Davenport, C. (2017, February 2). Scott Pruitt, Trump’s E.P.A. Pick, Is Approved by Senate Committee.
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  12. Cama, T. (2017, February 1). Dems boycott committee vote on Trump’s EPA pick.
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  13. (2016, December 28). 28 Legal Medical Marijuana States and DC.
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  15. Americans for Safe Access. (2016, December 8) Medical Marijuana Policy Roadmap Released by Americans for Safe Access.
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  16. U.S. Food and Drug Administration. (2017, May 10). Pembrolizumab (Keytruda).
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  17. Mazurek, J. (2017, March 3). Malignant Mesothelioma Mortality — United States, 1999–2015.
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  18. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (n.d.). Multiple Cause of Death, 1999-2015 Results.
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  19. Canadian Labour Congress. (2016, December 14). Canada’s unions celebrate federal asbestos ban.
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  20. Canadian Labour Congress. (n.d.). Ban asbestos: what are we asking for?
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  21. Agence France-Presse. (2016, November 16). Pressures rise on Canada to ban asbestos.
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  22. (2017, June 1). Study of Nivolumab Combined With Ipilimumab Versus Pemetrexed and Cisplatin or Carboplatin as First Line Therapy in Unresectable Pleural Mesothelioma Patients.
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  23. University of Hawaii Cancer Center. (2016, March 30). UH Cancer Center and JABSOM Researchers Receive U.S. Department of Defense Awards Totaling $3 Million. Retrieved from:

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