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Breath of Life Foundation renews generous support of Karmanos’ research in asbestos-related cancers

Officers of the International Association of Heat and Frost Insulators Union, representatives of the Central States Insulation Association, and union members of the Central States Conference, through their Breath of Life Foundation, have continued their commitment to funding research on asbestos and vermiculite-related cancers at the Barbara Ann Karmanos Cancer Institute with the most recent donation of $75,000.

Doctors who are part of the National Center for Vermiculite and Asbestos Related Cancers (NCVAC) at Karmanos recently met with representatives to talk about the work that they have done to better identify those cancers and to state that the need for research support is urgent.

“The number of centers that are investigating asbestos-related cancer is declining,” said Michael Harbut, M.D., MPH, FCCP, co-director of NCVAC and director of the Environmental Cancer Program at Karmanos. “The reason centers like NCVAC are closing is because most people think asbestos-related diseases are a thing of the past. Mesothelioma cases, however, will continue to increase considering vermiculite is in attics and asbestos is in things like brake pads and other imported goods.”

Breath of Life’s annual donation represents about 25 percent of NCVAC’s annual operating budget.

NCVAC researchers have been studying genetic patterns of asbestos-related diseases and are building a repository of serum, plasma and urine from approximately 500 patients for use in a biomarker study to promote early diagnosis of mesothelioma, a disease linked to asbestos. The study also will help researchers detect who is most at risk for mesothelioma, the identification of stem cells and a better understanding of the mechanisms by which mesothelioma develops from those stem cells.

"Taking a biomarker discovery approach in targeting cancer stem cells may allow us to derive the highest diagnostic and prognostic accuracy with these kinds of cancers,” said Naimei Tang, Ph.D., mesothelioma researcher with NCVAC and assistant professor of Internal Medicine at Wayne State University School of Medicine.

“If we can identify an autoantibody within the human body linked to an increased risk of asbestos-related cancer, including mesothelioma, we will then be able to develop a blood test that could identify those individuals who are at higher risk for the disease,” she added. “This work has the potential to allow us to recommend preventive measures to decrease asbestos exposure and, as a result, decrease the incidents of asbestos-related diseases.”

 NCVAC also has joined the National Mesothelioma Virtual Database, a virtual biospecimen registry designed to support and facilitate basic, clinical and translational research to advance the understanding of how mesothelioma develops and with the goal of discovering preventive measures, novel therapeutic interventions, and ultimately, cures for mesothelioma.

Gregory Revard, international vice president of the Heat and Frost Insulators Union, said he and his fellow tradesmen who make up part of the Breath of Life Foundation are committed to furthering research into asbestos-related diseases that have affected so many of those working in the trades.

“Our goal is to keep this project going,” Revard said. “We want to tell people that we need help and we want to impress upon the people in the construction industry the importance of this program.” 

Ann Schwartz, Ph.D., MPH, deputy center director and executive vice president of Research and Academic Affairs at Karmanos Cancer Institute, expressed her appreciation for the Breath of Life’s ongoing commitment to furthering NCVAC’s research.

“It’s essential for the well-being of our community that we continue conducting research into the types of cancer that affect those whose profession has the potential of bringing them into contact with disease-causing elements,” Dr. Schwartz said. “We thank the Breath of Life Foundation for recognizing that NCVAC’s work is a critical part of what we are doing at Karmanos to eventually bring cancer under complete control.”   




Members of the Breath of Life Foundation recently presented Karmanos with a donation to fund the Institute’s National Center for Vermiculite and Asbestos Related Cancers (NCVAC) program. Pictured are, from left to right, Craig “Skip” Grigonis, Tim Ochalek, John Tesija, William “Bud” Turner, Michael Harbut, M.D., MPH, FCCP, co-director of NCVAC, Naimei Tang, Ph.D., mesothelioma researcher with NCVAC and assistant professor of Internal Medicine at Wayne State University School of Medicine (WSU SOM), Crystal Zhang, master of Public Health student at WSU SOM; Tina Jordan, Gregory Revard, Tim O’Connell and Cynthia Noraian, research assistant in the Department of Oncology at Karmanos and WSU SOM.

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