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Last week, the Mesothelioma Applied Research Foundation (Meso Foundation) held the 2015 International Symposium on Malignant Mesothelioma at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Maryland. This was the twelfth annual symposium that the Meso Foundation has convened.
For two days (March 3-4), people from all over the world joined together to discuss all aspects of this deadly disease, from issues like research and treatment to how family and friends can get involved through advocacy and being present. On day three (March 5), attendees traveled to Capitol Hill to advocate with representatives and senators in an effort to provide more funding for research and to establish a national mesothelioma patient registry.
Symposium sessions were divided into two tracks, one for scientists and medical professionals and another for a more general audience made up of those affected by mesothelioma, including victims and their families, friends, and supporters. In the scientific track, professionals from the U.S., Europe, Australia, and elsewhere provided the latest insights and developments on clinical trials, database collaborations, and new areas of research that may eventually lead to treatments and possibly even a cure. The general sessions included talks about getting involved in care and advocacy programs, providing and receiving support from family members, therapists, and spiritual counselors, and discussions about quality of life like financial planning, maintaining relationships, and eating healthfully. Several medical professionals also spoke at the general session and provided an opportunity for attendees to ask questions and provide updates about clinical trials.
Heather Von St. James attended all three days of the symposium and shared some of her insights on her Twitter account and through the Mesothelioma Cancer Alliance Facebook page. In particular, she asked that followers help get involved. “Call your own Senators and Representatives,” she wrote. “Tell them your story how mesothelioma has affected you. The more this conversation is had, the more likely we are to get the research dollars that are needed.”
Video from the March 3 General Session of the symposium is available on the National Institutes of Health website.