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Scientist Sign-on to NCI Letter

Sign the Mesothelioma Applied Research Foundation’s letter to Dr. Harold Varmus today to urge the National Cancer Institute to develop a scientific framework to guide mesothelioma research efforts.

The Recalcitrant Cancer Research Act of 2012signed into law by President Obama on January 2, 2013 (Public Law No. 112-239), and directs the Director of the National Cancer Institute to identify deadly cancers for which to establish scientific frameworks that will guide research efforts. We feel strongly that mesothelioma should be included.

In this law, a recalcitrant cancer is defined as a cancer “for which the five-year relative survival rate is below 50 percent.” Mesothelioma easily meets this definition, as it is one of the most deadly cancers, with only a five to ten percent five-year survival rate. Not only does it have a single digit survival rate, but the average survival times for people with mesothelioma have been between four and 18 months.

The legislation also seeks to target cancers that have “not seen substantial progress in the diagnosis or treatment.” Unfortunately, mesothelioma fits this stipulation as well. Only one FDA-approved chemotherapy treatment for mesothelioma is available that extends life by only three months. No targeted therapies are available. There is no test currently available for early detection of mesothelioma either.

Please join the Mesothelioma Applied Research Foundation’s in urging Dr. Harold Varmus, Director of the National Cancer Institute to establish a scientific framework to guide mesothelioma research efforts under the Recalcitrant Cancer Research Act of 2012.

Dear Dr. Varmus,

I join the mesothelioma research community, in urging you to create a scientific framework to make real progress in better prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of those affected by mesothelioma. The Mesothelioma Applied Research Foundation is the nonprofit collaboration of patients and families, physicians, advocates, and researchers dedicated to eradicating the life-ending and vicious effects of mesothelioma. We commend you for your dedication to improving the lives of Americans stricken with mesothelioma through your direction of the National Cancer Institute and your leadership of the cancer research community. 

The Recalcitrant Cancer Research Act of 2012signed into law by President Obama on January 2, 2013 (Public Law No. 112-239) gives you, as the Director of the National Cancer Institute, the ability to identify additional recalcitrant cancers for which to establish scientific frameworks that will guide research efforts. We know that you have now completed the scientific framework for pancreatic cancer, and that you are near completion of the small cell lung cancer framework. We feel strongly that mesothelioma should be the next deadly cancer considered for a scientific framework.

The law defines a recalcitrant cancer as a cancer “for which the five-year relative survival rate is below 50 percent.” Mesothelioma easily meets this definition, as it is one of the most deadly cancers for which the disease-specific mortality approximates the incidence of the disease; the five-year survival rate is five to ten percent. Not only does it have a single digit survival rate, but the average survival times for people with mesothelioma have been between four and 18 months. Moreover, during the course of illness, patients suffer horribly from the consequences of disease progression.

The legislation also seeks to target cancers that have “not seen substantial progress in the diagnosis or treatment.” Unfortunately, mesothelioma fits this stipulation as well. With only one FDA-approved treatment for mesothelioma that extends life by only three months, many patients are treated with off label use of chemotherapies that have limited or no established benefit. In selected patients extensive operative procedures are offered that provide temporary palliation but little expectation of cure. As the symptoms are initially vague and non-specific, most patients are diagnosed with an advanced burden of disease; there is no test available for early detection of mesothelioma.

We strongly urge you to establish a scientific framework to guide mesothelioma research efforts under the Recalcitrant Cancer Research Act of 2012.

We appreciate your commitment and leadership to the cancer research community and again thank you for your consideration in this important matter.

Sincerely,

H. Richard Alexander, MD, Chair
University of Maryland School of Medicine



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