International symposium will focus on curing mesothelioma

A lethal, but long-overlooked cancer will take a major step out of the shadows next week, as The Mesothelioma Applied Research Foundation convenes the First International Symposium on Malignant Mesothelioma.

Mesothelioma is a rare, asbestos-related cancer. Research efforts were overlooked for decades, and effective treatment lags far behind other cancers. At the same time, incidence in the U.S. and globally is increasing to what some experts term epidemic proportions. The widely reported asbestos exposures resulting from 9/11 have increased the urgency of developing treatments for mesothelioma, in the view of many experts. The Symposium, to be held at Las Vegas' MGM Grand Hotel October 14-16, 2004, is the first ever meeting designed to unite the entire mesothelioma-concerned community to focus on the research needed to cure the disease.

The importance of this effort is gaining national attention. Today, the Honorable Harry Reid, Nevada Senator and Democratic Whip, confirmed that he will attend to deliver the Symposium's keynote speech. Jordan Zevon -- son of critically-acclaimed singer-songwriter Warren Zevon, who died from mesothelioma one year ago -- will also appear. Washington Senator Patty Murray will receive an award in the name of Congressman Bruce Vento, who died from mesothelioma in 2000.

The Symposium combines a scientific and medical conference with workshops designed specifically for patients, family members, industry representatives and others interested in the disease. Scientific Co-Chairs Nicholas Vogelzang, MD, Director of the Nevada Cancer Institute, and Harvey Pass, MD, Chief of Thoracic Oncology at Wayne State University's Karmanos Cancer Center, have assembled presentations by the world's leading mesothelioma surgeons, oncologists, and geneticists. Collectively, they will advance scientific understanding of the disease, while educating front-line physicians, as well as patients, families and all who help them, on recent advances, current treatment options, and emerging potential therapies for mesothelioma.

Additional presentations will address how both America's public and private sectors can allocate resources toward medical research to improve mesothelioma treatment. Representatives from government agencies, pharmaceutical companies, and law firms and corporations who might typically be found on opposite sides in asbestos litigation are all expected to participate.

"Bringing together these diverse members of the mesothelioma-concerned community is the key step needed right now in the effort to solve the problem," said MARF executive director Chris Hahn. "This is also an important opportunity for us to build community among patients, family members, volunteers and patient advocates and provide them with knowledge, encouragement and hope as they observe first-hand the dedication and brilliance of those who are working so passionately to unlock the secrets of this disease."

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