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Written By: Tim Povtak,
Last modified: December 22, 2020

About the Pacific Mesothelioma Center

The Pacific Mesothelioma Center (PMC) was established in 2012 as a division of the Pacific Heart, Lung & Blood Institute. This nonprofit has been researching immunotherapy and gene therapy techniques for cancer treatment since 2002.

PMC operates an in-house research laboratory, and in 2015 it set up one of the only tissue banks in the world that collects samples donated by mesothelioma patients. Having a dedicated lab and tissue bank on site accelerates the center’s research efforts.

The doctors and researchers of PMC have explored using stem cells to design targeted treatments and gene therapies for pleural mesothelioma. The center also sponsored one of the first in-depth studies of recovery after mesothelioma surgery, using repurposed Fitbit technology.

PMC is one of a handful of research centers in the U.S. investigating therapies for mesothelioma.

The Vaccine and Immunotherapy Center at Massachusetts General Hospital also studies immunotherapy for mesothelioma. While the Shukla Research Lab at the University of Vermont studies how asbestos causes mesothelioma.

Fundraising

PMC raises funding through events such as the annual 5K Walk/Hike for Mesothelioma. Every year, people impacted by this terrible disease come together to support research. The 3.1-mile trail is marked by informative signs about mesothelioma and memorials to lost loved ones.

In 2015, the event raised more than $100,000, and they raised the bar to $122,000 the following year. In 2017, the event set a new record by raising more than $160,000.

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Influence of Dr. Robert Cameron, Lung-Sparring Pioneer

The Pacific Mesothelioma Center has an expert scientific advisor in Dr. Robert Cameron, the director of UCLA’s Comprehensive Mesothelioma Program. He is also a senior professor at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA and a co-founder of the Mesothelioma Applied Research Foundation.

Cameron has distinguished himself within the small community of mesothelioma specialists. He tirelessly advocates for a different approach to pleural mesothelioma treatment.

Traditionally, pleural mesothelioma treatment is designed to either relieve symptoms at the end of a patient’s life or attempt to cure the cancer through a combination of aggressive therapies. Aggressive treatment often involves a dangerous surgery to remove an affected lung.

In Cameron’s view, doctors should instead aim to treat pleural mesothelioma as a chronic disease. The keystone of this approach is a lung-sparring procedure called a pleurectomy and decortication (P/D). It is still a major tumor-removing surgery, but it carries less risk and has a lower impact on quality of life than an extrapleural pneumonectomy (EPP).

At PMC, doctors typically combine P/D with radiation therapy, chemotherapy and experimental immunotherapies.

Immunotherapy drugs hold promise as a gentler alternative to chemotherapy, just as P/D is a more tolerable procedure than EPP.

Cameron hopes pleural mesothelioma patients will ultimately be able to repeat this treatment plan every few years as needed. This would extend their life expectancy by years, marking a huge improvement over the average outcomes of current therapies.


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