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Breath of Life provides generous support to Karmanos' mesothelioma detection research


Karmanos Cancer Institute and National Center for Vermiculite and Asbestos-Related Cancer (NCVAC) staff, along with representatives of the Breath of Life Foundation, gathered recently for a check presentation of $75,000, which will support NCVAC programs researching asbestos-related mesothelioma. Pictured, from left, are Nick Karmanos, senior vice president of Institutional Relations at Karmanos Cancer Institute; Christopher Scott, accountant for the Breath of Life Association; Dan Somenauer, Local 207 business manager; Naimei Tang, Ph.D., mesothelioma researcher and assistant professor with Wayne State University School of Medicine; Ann Schwartz, Ph.D., MPH, deputy center director at Karmanos; Greg Revard, international vice president of the Heat and Frost Insulators Union; Tom Dyl, insulation contractor and owner of Rand Environmental Services; Breath of Life Attorney John Tesija; Craig “Skip” Grigonis, Heat and Frost Insulators Local 47 business manager; and Alicia Salkowski, and Cynthia Noraian, NCVAC research assistants.

Officers of the International Association of Heat and Frost Insulators Union and representatives of the Central States Insulation Association, through their Breath of Life Foundation, have once again shown their commitment to supporting the National Center for Vermiculite and Asbestos-Related Cancers (NCVAC) at the Barbara Ann Karmanos Cancer Institute by donating $75,000.

Funding will be used to support three projects conducted through NCVAC, led by Naimei Tang, Ph.D., assistant professor of Internal Medicine at Wayne State University School of Medicine.

NCVAC has established a database and patient specimen bank, which includes serum, plasma and urine collected by staff in Karmanos’ clinics and by Michael Harbut, M.D., MPH, director of NCVAC and the Center for Occupational and Environmental Medicine in Royal Oak. In one of Dr. Tang’s studies, specimens are screened for biomarkers to evaluate high-risk populations that have been exposed to asbestos.The intention is to identify the specimen type with the greatest sensitivity and specificity for biomarkers that will be able to single out those patients at increased risk for developing mesothelioma.

Other projects include the discovery of new or additional biomarkers for diseases, such as asbestos-induced mesothelioma, and the identification of molecular mechanisms of carcinogenesis for mesothelioma among asbestos-exposed populations.

Ann Schwartz, Ph.D., M.P.H., deputy center director at Karmanos Cancer Institute, thanked Breath of Life members for their sustained support of NCVAC’s research.

“Without this kind of funding resource, we would not be able to conduct this research,” she said. “Your support has assisted with our work in identifying biomarkers that indicate disease and increasing our understanding of the biology of how asbestos exposure leads to mesothelioma.”

Future work that will be conducted with the support from Breath of Life includes the monitoring of high-risk patient populations for molecular changes in serum, plasma and urine, as well as the monitoring of well-known biomarker levels of patients who have donated their specimens so that researchers can determine the causes of mesothelioma. Additionally, researchers will identify autoantigen biomarkers to aid in the diagnosis of mesothelioma.

Nick Karmanos, senior vice president of Institutional Relations for Karmanos, expressed his own gratitude for the generosity of Heat and Frost Insulators and Breath of Life officials.

“We appreciate your incredible support,” he said. “Mesothelioma is a devastating disease and this support is critical as we work diligently to bring this disease under complete control.”

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