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.
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.
Keytruda Effective Against Mesothelioma
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.
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.
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.
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.
CDC Reports Record Number of Mesothelioma Deaths
Opdivo and Yervoy Combo Brings High Expectations
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.
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.
Matt Mauney is an award-winning journalist with nearly a decade of professional writing experience. He joined Asbestos.com 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 advancements. Prior to joining Asbestos.com, Matt was a reporter at the Orlando Sentinel. Matt also edits some of the pages on the website. He also holds a certificate in health writing from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
- Karmasek, J. (2017, February 15). Sponsor Expects Asbestos Bill to be part of Reform Package Supported by Trump. Retrieved from https://www.forbes.com/sites/legalnewsline/2017/02/28/sponsor-expects-asbestos-bill-to-be-part-of-reform-package-supported-by-trump/#679ec91719f4
- Karmasek, J. (2017, February 24). U.S. House Panel Approves Asbestos ‘Double Dipping’ Litigation Reform Bills. Retrieved from http://legalnewsline.com/stories/511082714-u-s-house-panel-approves-asbestos-double-dipping-litigation-reform-bills
- Congress.gov. (n.d.). H.R. 906 Furthering Asbestos Claim Transparency (FACT) Act of 2017. Retrieved from https://www.congress.gov/bill/115th-congress/house-bill/906
- Feely, J., Fisk, M. and Hopkins, J. (2017, September 22). Johnson & Johnson alerted to risk of asbestos in talc in '70s, files show. Retrieved from http://www.chicagotribune.com/business/ct-johnson-johnson-talc-asbestos-warning-20170922-story.html
- Hayes, P. (2017, September 14). Johnson & Johnson’s Newest Talc Problem? Asbestos. Retrieved from https://www.bna.com/johnson-johnsons-newest-n57982087958/
- Johnson & Johnson. (n.d.). 5 Important Facts About the Safety of Talc. Retrieved from https://www.jnj.com/our-products/5-important-facts-about-the-safety-of-talc
- Penn Medicine News. (2017, March 20). Pembrolizumab Shows Promise in Treatment of Mesothelioma. Retrieved from https://www.pennmedicine.org/news/news-releases/2017/march/pembrolizumab-shows-promise-in-treatment-of-mesothelioma
- 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). Retrieved from https://clinicaltrials.gov/ct2/show/NCT02054806?term=KEYNOTE+028&rank=1
- 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. Retrieved from http://www.thelancet.com/journals/lanonc/article/PIIS1470-2045(17)30169-9/fulltext
- U.S. Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works. (2017, January 18). Questions for the Record for the Honorable E. Scott Pruitt. Retrieved from http://www.epw.senate.gov/public/_cache/files/6d95005c-bd1a-4779-af7e-be831db6866a/scott-pruitt-qfr-responses-01.18.2017.pdf
- Davenport, C. (2017, February 2). Scott Pruitt, Trump’s E.P.A. Pick, Is Approved by Senate Committee. Retrieved from https://www.nytimes.com/2017/02/02/us/politics/scott-pruitt-epa-senate.html?_r=0
- Cama, T. (2017, February 1). Dems boycott committee vote on Trump’s EPA pick. Retrieved from http://thehill.com/policy/energy-environment/317311-dems-boycott-committee-vote-on-trumps-epa-pick
- ProCon.org. (2016, December 28). 28 Legal Medical Marijuana States and DC. Retrieved from http://medicalmarijuana.procon.org/view.resource.php?resourceID=000881
- Medical News Today. (2016, July 8). Medical marijuana linked to reduced prescription drug use. Retrieved from http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/311504.php
- Americans for Safe Access. (2016, December 8) Medical Marijuana Policy Roadmap Released by Americans for Safe Access. Retrieved from http://www.safeaccessnow.org/medical_marijuana_policy_roadmap_released_by_americans_for_safe_access
- U.S. Food and Drug Administration. (2017, May 10). Pembrolizumab (Keytruda). Retrieved from https://www.fda.gov/Drugs/InformationOnDrugs/ApprovedDrugs/ucm558048.htm
- Mazurek, J. (2017, March 3). Malignant Mesothelioma Mortality — United States, 1999–2015. Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/volumes/66/wr/mm6608a3.htm?s_cid=mm6608a3_w
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (n.d.). Multiple Cause of Death, 1999-2015 Results. Retrieved from https://wonder.cdc.gov/mcd-icd10-archive2006.html
- Canadian Labour Congress. (2016, December 14). Canada’s unions celebrate federal asbestos ban. Retrieved from http://canadianlabour.ca/news/news-archive/canada%E2%80%99s-unions-celebrate-federal-asbestos-ban
- Canadian Labour Congress. (n.d.). Ban asbestos: what are we asking for? Retrieved from http://canadianlabour.ca/ban-asbestos-what-are-we-asking
- Agence France-Presse. (2016, November 16). Pressures rise on Canada to ban asbestos. Retrieved from http://phys.org/news/2016-11-pressures-canada-asbestos.html
- ClinicalTrials.gov. (2017, June 1). Study of Nivolumab Combined With Ipilimumab Versus Pemetrexed and Cisplatin or Carboplatin as First Line Therapy in Unresectable Pleural Mesothelioma Patients. Retrieved from https://clinicaltrials.gov/ct2/show/study/NCT02899299?term=opdivo+and+yervoy+and+mesothelioma
- 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 http://www.uhcancercenter.org/component/content/article/23-news-highlights/432-uh-cancer-center-and-jabsom-researchers-receive-united-states-department-of-defense-awards-totalling-3-million
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