Over the last 15 years the international medical community has served up consistently surprising innovations in treatment methods for prolonging life expectancy of mesothelioma patients. Mesothelioma, however, is still one of the most baffling cancers to treat because it has historically been very difficult to diagnose until later stages when treatment is rendered ineffective. The survival rate, therefore, continues to hover at a relatively unpromising rate.
The University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine Department of Biomedical Information, in a bold attempt to accelerate progress, created a program in 2006 merging specialists from a vast array of retrospectives in the mesothelioma scientific and medical communities.
Last week Dr. Michael Becich presented the concept of a National Mesothelioma Virtual Bank (NMVB) at the MARF 2012 Symposium (Mesothelioma Applied Research Foundation). Becich, joined by six influential researchers, sought to clarify in layman’s terms some recent trends for treatment of mesothelioma patients.
The NMVB program offers an opportunity for collaboration from many different focuses— a collaboration of minds from different perspectives such as clinical, scientific, physical/medical, and biomedical (study relative to tolerance of environmental stresses and disease).
Established in 2006 under Dr. Becich’s direction, NMVB has been joined by University of Pennsylvania and New York University. The three universities persist in collaborating to produce the most comprehensive, progressive think tank for groundbreaking discoveries.
The process centers on analyzing mesothelioma tissue samples and providing commentary on multiple considerations to researchers (called multi-nodal annotated data). Blood samples are collected from mesothelioma patients to store in the institution’s voluntary tissue bank. Samples and reports are stored at a central database on the following critical subjects: pathology (study of typical behavior of diseases as observed in laboratory studies); demography (study of geographical regions where diseases are more or less prevalent); and epidemiology (study of a disease’s specific causes).
Voluntary biospecimens (i.e., mesothelioma urine and tissue samples, DNA, RNA, cells, proteins) are urgently needed in order for research scientists to test their hypotheses and advance treatments. The unsurpassed quality and quantity of data (called clinicopathology) in the NMVB bank sheds light on existing information to help formulate new theories and test potential new treatments. After the research panel approves each letter of intent, a biospecimen may be released for testing and conjecture. In the near future it is speculated that more university science and medical departments will merge data and analysis in both retrospective (past to present) and prospective (present to future) cases.
The entire MESO community is indebted to Dr. Becich’s work. The MARF 2012 Symposium provided a forum for such innovators to form a colossal brain trust.