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Faces of Mesothelioma: Ernie Conry’s Story


“If you walk up and down the street and you’re still smiling, you’re not dead. Don’t let the cancer bog you down.”

faces of mesothelioma and asbestos exposureAfter experiencing symptoms for nearly eight years, Ernie Conry was diagnosed with pleural mesothelioma in 2002. With a consistently positive mindset, Ernie fought the disease for many years. This is his story.

Exposure to Asbestos

Ernie was exposed to asbestos throughout his life. Most of his exposure occurred when he worked as an auto mechanic, an occupation with a high risk of asbestos exposure due to the asbestos used in brake pads.

Ernie first began experiencing problems as early as 1996, which included pain in his shoulder and ribcage. In 2002 doctors performed multiple tests, including X-rays, CAT scans and biopsies, before finally diagnosing Ernie with pleural mesothelioma.

“I had been visiting with a brother of mine who also had mesothelioma,” Ernie said in video interview. “I found out a month after visiting him…I had the same cancer.”

Ernie’s brother developed the same disease after being exposed to asbestos while serving in the U.S. Navy. Navy veterans are also among a high-risk group of individuals because of the asbestos used in ships.

Ernie’s Mesothelioma Battle

After his diagnosis, Ernie’s doctors implemented a treatment plan that included chemotherapy, radiation and surgery. He battled the disease from 2002 to 2009, during which he maintained a positive attitude that served as an inspiration for others.

Sadly, Ernie passed away in 2009.

Filing a Mesothelioma Lawsuit

Ernie seriously considered filing a lawsuit after he learned his disease was caused by exposure to asbestos. He decided to file a lawsuit against the asbestos companies that were responsible for his exposure and subsequent mesothelioma diagnosis.

Watch the video below to hear more about Ernie Conry’s decision to file a lawsuit, or read more about Ernie’s story here.

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Studies Show Positive Impact of Immunotherapy on Mesothelioma Cancer Regression


mesothelioma cancer treatmentMesothelioma is often seen among the aging population, primarily because of its long latency period. In turn, increased age has been linked to immune system decline. Knowing all of this, new research shows that improving immune system dysfunction may have a positive impact on the regression of mesothelioma cancer cells.

One study from Curtin University and the University of Western Australia found that by targeting macrophages, the white blood cells that help stimulate an immune response from other cells in the immune system, immune dysfunction in the elderly may be reversed. This means that the immune system may be capable of fighting and killing cancer cells.

“Immune dysfunction is not permanent and in fact can be restored to function similarly to a young immune system,” said Dr. Connie Jackaman, member of Curtin University’s immunology and cancer group, in a Science Network article about the study.

Another study focused on the anti-CD40 antibody, which was described as “one of the most powerful new cancer immunotherapies.” This antibody has the ability to increase the body’s production of tumor-fighting T-cells.

In the study, researchers surgically removed mesothelioma cancer tumors from lab mice. Afterwards, more cancer cells were given to the mice to stimulate cancer recurrence. As the new tumors began to grow, the mice were then treated with the anti-CD40 antibody either directly on the growing tumor, in an area close to the tumor, or as a treatment through the bloodstream.

Results showed that the postsurgical cancer growth slowed in comparison to the mice not treated with the anti-CD40 antibody. The treatment also slowed the growth of local recurrences and improved survival rates from the recurrences.

Immunotherapy is often used to treat mesothelioma. It is a treatment that uses the body’s immune system to fight the cancer. These new study findings show promising results for a basis for further research on the effectiveness of immunotherapy, because it is not yet known if this treatment is effective in elderly human patients with mesothelioma.

Other common types of mesothelioma treatment options include surgery (to decrease fluid buildup, remove the tissue around the lungs or abdomen, remove as much of the tumor as possible, or remove a lung), chemotherapy, radiation therapy and experimental clinical trials. Because there is still no cure for mesothelioma, insights from studies like the one described above are positive reminders that we are moving closer to a cure every day.

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Simmons Mesothelioma Foundation Awards Funding to UPCI for Mesothelioma Study, Treatment


The Simmons Mesothelioma Foundation has partnered with another major university in its quest to support medical experts and researchers working to improve the quality of life for mesothelioma patients and their families.

The foundation will be awarding the University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute $350,000 over three years. The funding will improve UPCI’s Comprehensive Mesothelioma Program and the UPMC Cancer Centers work specifically relating to the study of mesothelioma and treatment of this deadly disease. UPCI is the only NCI designated comprehensive cancer center in western Pennsylvania.

“We are incredibly thankful for the generous gift from the Simmons Mesothelioma Foundation to expand our program, which will positively impact the lives of so many people diagnosed with mesothelioma and their families,” said Dr. David Bartlett, chief of surgical oncology, in UPCI’s official release.

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Asbestos clinic gets surprise donation from Simmons Mesothelioma Foundation


A nationally recognized medical clinic in the small town of Libby, Montana, recently received a nice reminder that they’re not the only ones who think the work they do for patients with asbestos-related diseases is important.

The Simmons Mesothelioma Foundation recently donated $10,000 to the Center for Asbestos Related Diseases.

The Center for Asbestos Related Diseases is one of a few medical facilities in the nation solely dedicated to treating people with diseases, like mesothelioma, caused by asbestos exposure. Most people would expect to find the treatment options CARD doctors provide in the bigger cities like New York or at a top university like the University of Pennsylvania. But in this case, the clinic went to the people. Literally.

The 10,000 people who live in Libby are 30 percent more likely to develop an asbestos-related disease, like mesothelioma or lung cancer, because a vermiculite mine operated from the 1960s to the early 1990s just outside of town. This form of vermiculite, a shiny rock similar to mica, contained amphibole asbestos. The mining process broke down the asbestos, creating a fine dust, which covered, not only miners, but the entire town. I have read news stories about how it would blanket the town. Miners would come home covered in it, children would play in it, and the wives would clean it, because, back then, no one really understood its dangers. Except the mining company.

W.R. Grace Co., who owned the mine, knowingly poisoned the entire town. Studies estimate that since 1960, 88 miners have died from asbestos-related diseases and that 1 in 40 of residents in Libby and the surrounding area have died or suffered from asbestos-related diseases. Because of this, the town was designated a National Public Health Emergency by the Environmental Protection Agency, the first ever such declaration made by the agency.

Asbestos exposure, even though it might have happened decades ago, is killing people now. No one understands this better than Libby, Montana and the doctors at CARD. The Simmons Hanly Conroy is proud to know that it’s multi-million pledge to the Simmons Mesothelioma Foundation is going to help the people who need it most, such as those treated at CARD.

The Simmons Mesothelioma Foundation didn’t mail a check, as this news article in the town’s newspaper, The Western News, reports. Foundation Chairman John Simmons hand-delivered it while he was on vacation.

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Stand Up 2 Cancer broadcast provides opportunity to increase awareness about mesothelioma


On Sept. 10, all the major television networks and several other broadcasters will once again air the 3-hour marathon Stand Up 2 Cancer. When SU2C aired in 2008, the program helped raise more than $100 million for cancer research spearheaded by The American Association for Cancer Research.  This year the program, interspersed with celebrity performances, will show viewers how five “Dream Teams” comprised of 13 scientists from across several disciplines are utilizing those dollars to extend cancer patients’ lives and to come closer to finding a cure.

The easy thing to do on this night would be to change the channel. I encourage you not to. Instead, I encourage you to listen because chances are you know someone whose life has been impacted by cancer. Chances are you’ve read news articles detailing how a person battled not only the physical, but the emotion and spiritual pain caused by a cancer diagnosis and won. Chances are you’ve told your kids not to smoke because you want to spare them that pain. Chances are you know where to find the next Relay for Life race in your community.

You know all of this. Everyone has heard of the super star cancers like breast cancer and pancreatic cancer, but what about those others with names so long you can’t remember how to pronounce? No one really knows about these orphan cancers like mesothelioma. Sometimes, not even your doctor.

Stand Up 2 Cancer provides an opportunity to have that conversation.

Every day I hear stories about people whose doctors didn’t know about mesothelioma. The diagnosis comes back and the patient’s doctor tells them to get their affairs in order because they only have six months to live.

If doctors don’t even know, how are you supposed to know that 3,000 new people are diagnosed with meso every year?  How are you supposed to know that asbestos, which causes meso, is still legal in the United States?  That the United States and Canada are the only two Western countries who have not taken significant efforts to ban asbestos? How are you supposed to know the research being done for other cancers helps meso and vice versa?

How are you supposed to know there’s hope for a cure and not just the superstar cancers like breast cancer, but for the orphan cancers like meso as well? Stand Up 2 Cancer, and other shows like it, is how you can know because it spotlights the work being done for all cancers so that someday there won’t be a need for us to know.

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