International Mesothelioma Conference
by Laurie Kazan-Allen
The 12th International Conference of the International Mesothelioma Interest Group 2014 (IMIG 2014) took place in Cape Town, South Africa on October 21-24, 2014.1 Despite the rather remote location, hundreds of clinicians, researchers, academics, scientists and others took part in proceedings which included plenary presentations, workshops and poster discussions. Features which were added to this year’s event included a social advocacy panel and exhibitions by local community activists from former asbestos mining areas engulfed by a deadly legacy which endangers the health of all those who live, work and visit the areas.
IMIG2014 Chair Dr. Jim te WaterNaude opens the conference.
From rather small beginnings, IMIG has grown to be recognized as the premier biennial calendar fixture for mesothelioma experts. The success of the IMIG event was this year underscored by the presence at the meeting in Cape Town of a U.S. toxicologist David Bernstein who has undertaken commissions for Canadian, Brazilian, U.S. and other asbestos stakeholders. He was not the only asbestos industry delegate at IMIG. Dr Markus Heitz from Becon (Switzerland) also attended; Becon is the holding company for the Swiss Eternit company. Also present was a former employee of Everite, a South African asbestos-cement company which in 2002 made the transition to asbestos-free technology.
As far as we know, the industry affiliations of these individuals were not known to IMIG delegates although Bernstein did include an acknowledgment on his poster presentation that it had been funded by “Honeywell International Inc.” The title of the poster, which listed five co-authors with Bernstein as the lead author, was: “The evaluation of the biopersistence, pathological response and pleural translocation of chrysotile containing brake dust in comparison to crocidolite asbestos following short term inhalation exposure.” The first of the four conclusions was the finding that: “No significant pathological response was observed at any time point in the brake dust of chrysotile/brake dust exposure groups in either the lung or pleural cavity.”
It is pertinent to note that the abstract Bernstein submitted for consideration by the IMIG organizers did not include an acknowledgement of industry support.
The 160+ oral presentations, 30 poster discussions and 150 posters over the three day event covered mesothelioma developments in epidemiology, immunotherapy, surgery, preclinical trials, personalized therapy, radiotherapy, pathology, immunology, molecular therapy, imaging, multimodality treatments, molecular genetics, biomarkers, novel therapeutics, social advocacy, nursing and supportive care. Reflecting on IMIG2014, incoming IMIG President Professor Dean Fennell noted the lack of progress in treatment options over the last twelve years and welcomed “the signals for new approaches to treatments” reported in Cape Town.2 He highlighted exciting developments reported by IMIG speakers in neoadjuvant therapy, immunology and antibody research, emphasizing the need to develop a standard of care for patients in the relapse setting. Data awaited from recently completed UK randomized trials in the 2nd line setting might inform this discussion.
As many of the IMIG2104 sessions were run concurrently, it was important to make strategic choices about which discussions to attend. During the epidemiology session on October 22, remarks by Julian Peto about the low risk posed by human exposure to chrysotile proved contentious; despite his stated position, the final slide in his presentation concluded with the following statement:
“Chrysotile should be banned worldwide because:
(1) It causes lung cancer
(2) It’s not needed – the EU ban did no economic damage.”
It is relevant to note that Professor Peto is part of a controversial research initiative – Historical cohort study of cancer mortality following exposure to chrysotile asbestos at the Uralasbest plant in Asbest, Russian Federation – mounted by personnel from the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) and Russian scientists with proven links to asbestos vested interests.3 At the October 23 epidemiology session, Dr. Jock McCulloch’s presentation: Asbestos Blues: A History of Asbestos Mining in South Africa contained evidence of the corruption of asbestos science. Checks issued by the U.S. law firm of Nelson, Mullins, Riley & Scarborough, representing asbestos defendants, to Dr. Christopher Wagner, the scientist widely credited with having discovered the relationship between pleural mesothelioma and asbestos exposure, were shown.
Filmed highlights from the conference included the plenary session address by the Coordinator of the International Ban Asbestos Secretariat Laurie Kazan-Allen, in the category designated “Best of IMIG 2014.”4
Other filmed IMIG sessions or interviews which would be of interest to ban asbestos campaigners include segments with nursing specialist Liz Darlison,5 campaigners Sophia Kisting6 and Kathleen Ruff.7
At the end of IMIG2014, the winning bid for IMIG2016 was announced. In contention were conferences in Paris, Antwerp and Birmingham. To the delight of the UK organizing committee, the event was awarded to Birmingham.http://ibasecretariat.org/lka-
Mary and Liz are here in this photo
Thankyou Laurie for letting me share the conference here.
To help all those who would have liked to have attended her is the iMIG write ups which I have found so very interesting as they are packed with information on all levels of Mesothelioma.
In the opening plenary session of iMig 2014, Dr. Jim te Water Naudé and Dr. Steven Mutsaers welcomed close to 300 healthcare professionals to Cape Town, South Africa. It’s an impressive number of attendees for this somewhat remote but beautiful venue and given iMig’s membership of around 500 members. The assembled group comprises the finest minds in mesothelioma related research, treatment, and advocacy from around the world. It’s quickly evinced as a heavily scientific affair with a fun spirit as Dr. te Water Naudé jokingly threatens to use a vuvuzela horn on speakers who defy their time restrictions.
The initial plenary session focused on several areas of interest to the broad range of delegates traveling to iMig. The opening plenary speakers’ presentations are outlined below as are several key presentations chosen by iMig peers as the “Best of iMig 2014”.
Here I found the interesting
Asbestos Blues: A History of Asbestos Mining in South Africa
– Jock McCulloch
Australia and South Africa are the only countries to have mined crocidolite or blue asbestos. Crocidolite was mined in the Northern Cape for one hundred years and at Wittenoom in Western Australia from 1944 until 1966. Mining has left a pandemic of asbestos disease in the Northern Cape and although production levels were modest, Wittenoom has become the site of Australia’s worst occupational health disaster. The mines of the Northern Cape also supplied the first conclusive evidence linking asbestos to mesothelioma, but discovery had no impact on the global consumption of asbestos.
Corruption is a serious problem in communities burdened by asbestos-related disease and this has justifiably bred profound mistrust of outsiders involved in asbestos compensation, research, or litigation. This corruption has involved both suppression and destruction of knowledge and this has been one of the most effective strategies employed by the asbestos industry. The history of suppression of information documenting the dangers of asbestos exposure dates back to the 1930’s when the work of George Slade demonstrating the health effects of asbestos exposure in miners was suppressed and ultimately destroyed. These actions contributed to the absence of any regulation at all of asbestos mining in South Africa until 1955. In the United States, the asbestos industry actually paid researchers to claim that asbestos was not significantly associated with mesothelioma. Corruption of science slows regulatory legislation and limits the success of litigation aimed at compensating victims.
iMig 2014 brought together nearly 300 scientists, clinicians, and patient advocates from around the world to Cape Town for 4 exciting days that included nearly 350 platform and poster presentations. The meeting provided a forum for sharing information about new technologies, the latest basic and clinical research findings, and how we can join together to help patients with this disease and educate all about the dangers of asbestos exposure.
This international conference was a great success and continues the work of iMig aimed at understanding and ultimately preventing and defeating mesothelioma.