WTC dust proves fatal

Via the blog Confined Space, I see that a New York City police detective at the site of the World Trade Center attack died of respiratory failure recently. The medical examiner said: reasonable degree of medical certainty that the cause of death in this case was directly related to the 9/11 incident.” This may be the first documented case of a death from resiratory problems caused by the collapse of the buildings. The BBC reports that at least 15,000 people are estimated to be suffering some sort of health problem from the WTC disaster.

Sequential Chemotherapy has an article about trying to find an effective chemotherapy regimen for mesothelioma. This is such an intractable form of cancer and resists forms of therapy that are effective for other cancers: radiation, surgery, simple chemotherapy. The cutting edge of mesothelioma treatment involves combinaton therapy: more than one treatment.

There’s a study out of Italy where they treated patients with sequential chemotherapy, where one drug (or group of drugs) is given for a while followed by the another group of drugs. In this trial they used cisplatin plus gemcitabine, followed by mitoxantrone, methotrexate, and mitomycin. They got good results. The median survival was 13 months and 63% of the patients were still alive after one year.

Now this is only one study, and the results weren’t miraculous, but they are encouraging and more evidence that combination therapy is generally the best way to go.

Avastin to be used for lung cancer

When it was still in development and clinical trials, avastin (bevacizumab) was used in trials for mesothelioma. The authorities sometimes allow experimental drugs to be used in mesothelioma treatment, partly because there are so few effective treatments for mesothelioma and because it more or less an orphan disease (i.e. rare).

Avastin was eventually “approved” by the FDA for colon cancer, and the drug companies have been trying to get it approved for other types of cancer. This week, the FDA approved avastin for lung cancer. Of course, lung cancer is not the same as mesothelioma, but it’s sort of heartening to those of us who think about mesothelioma to know that some work on mesothelioma contributed to advances in treatment for other cancers.

Asbestos in the US Capital

Interesting story out of Washington: the tunnels beneath the capital building have asbestos “lying so thick on the ground that it can be scooped up in handfuls.” It’s posing a hazard to workers, and the Capitol Police aren’t even allowing their officers to patrol the tunnels because of the risk.

Maybe having asbestos so close to home will encourage Congress to finally ban asbestos from new products. The European Union has banned asbestos, but it continues to be legal to sell asbestos in the United States. Of course, even if asbestos were banned, there is still the legacy material in hundreds of thousands of buildings (and industrial sites) throughout the country.