Dr. Julie Brahmer focused on developing new and better therapies for both the treatment – and the prevention – of mesothelioma and lung cancer.
“Hope means different things to different people at different stages of the cancer experience. There are always reasons for people living with cancer to have a sense of hope, no matter what the diagnosis or prognosis. We’re helping to give that.”
Mesothelioma is the cancer caused by an exposure to asbestos that is diagnosed in an estimated 3,000 Americans annually. Although progress is being made, there still is no known cure.
At the 2009 International Mesothelioma Symposium, she presented Malignant Mesothelioma: Are We Making Any Progress, focusing primarily on the evolving role of chemotherapy in helping to treat it. She returned to the 2010 Symposium – which attracted experts from around the world – to speak on Pain Management, focusing on mesothelioma cancer.
“In the past, few chemotherapy drugs have revealed a response (decreasing the size of tumors). And in general oncology, it has made people pretty nihilistic toward this disease,” she said. “But cautious optimism has emerged because of new agents that have had a significant response, and novel therapies are being developed.”
Research and Leadership
Brahmer serves as the program director for the Johns Hopkins Clinical Research Network, coordinating oncology trials with investigators at all the affiliated institutions. She works with industry sponsors to help promote those trials.
Brahmer also is the leader of the weekly multi-disciplinary meetings that bring together various specialists to discuss prognosis and treatment of various thoracic malignancies being seen at John Hopkins. Mesothelioma is not the most common one, but it has been one of the most challenging and complex diseases that they tackle.
Through her research and clinical trials, she has become a nationally recognized authority, publishing several papers on mesothelioma. She authored Chapter 9 of the John Hopkins Patient’s Guide to Lung Cancer, titled “My Cancer isn’t Curable – What Now?”
She serves on the advisory board of the Mesothelioma Applied Research Foundation. She also is the chairman of the Scientific Executive Committee of the National Lung Cancer Partnership.
Her goal has been to accelerate the transfer of new diagnostic, treatment and disease prevention advances from the lab into patient care. And the same teamwork approach to research is what she believes is the best course with individual cancer patients. She spoke about that philosophy during her 2010 Symposium talk.
“When it comes to pain management, one size does not fit all,” she said. “It’s the mainstay of what we do here. Pain can affect the mind, the body and the spirit. Our patients are not just living longer. They are living better. And we’re here to keep making advances.”