Participants sought for mesothelioma genetic study

Among the many wonderful speakers at the 2009 International Symposium on Malignant Mesothelioma, presented by the Mesothelioma Applied Research Foundation in June, was Dr. Jill Ohar of Wake Forest University. She has been researching mesothelioma and other asbestos diseases for more than 20 years, and currently is heading a study to determine if there could be a genetic predisposition between asbestos exposure and the development of mesothelioma.

Dr. Ohar told conference attendees that her goal is to try to discover why some people may be exposed to asbestos and never develop any type of asbestos disease, while others may develop asbestosis, lung cancer or mesothelioma. She had already collected blood samples and DNA from 6,000 people exposed to asbestos for an epidemiologic study. Of that number, she said, 250 people developed mesothelioma.

“What is different in those people?” she wondered.

The next phase of the study is a genome study involving the 250 patients who did develop mesothelioma. In addition, Dr. Ohar is seeking additional participants.

A news release on Oct. 5 announced that FirstHealth of the Carolinas, a comprehensive health care network serving 15 counties in the mid-Carolinas, will partner with the Wake Forest School of Medicine to encourage participation in the study, which is investigating the development and progression of asbestos-related lung diseases and cancers. The FirstHealth Clinical Trials Department will work on this project.

Dr. Ohar is the study’s principal investigator. In the news release she says, “Families have been devastated by this disease, but what is surprising is that despite the strong association of asbestos exposure to mesothelioma, only a small number of people exposed to asbestos actually develop mesothelioma. Over years of research, we have determined that there is a strong tendency for mesothelioma to run in families and it tends to be associated with a family history of cancer, which suggests a genetic susceptibility.”

The mesothelioma study requires the collection of one ounce of blood from the participant and the completion of a tw0-page survey, both to be conducted at FirstHealth Moore Regional Hospital’s Chest Center of the Carolinas.

The study will examine associated environmental factors and genetic markers of people diagnosed with mesothelioma, basically identifying how frequently encountered environmental pollutants affect the body and determining the genetic factors that make some families more susceptible than others to mesothelioma and other forms of cancer.

If you or a a friend or family member has been diagnosed with mesothelioma and are interested in participating in this study or have questions, please call FirstHealth Clinical Trials at 910-715-2200 or Dr. Jill Ohar at 866-487-2344 or 336-716-8426.

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