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3108215464_e0a5d05d22Our team of lung cancer lawyers strives to provide our clients with the most up-to-date, comprehensive information on supporting and alternative cancer treatments. We recently reported on a treatment type for patients with a specific type of lung cancer known as oligometastasic. Below, we outline three other complementary treatments patients should consider.

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welderAn Illinois construction company was recently hit with a million-dollar fine for willfully exposing employees to asbestos, many of whom were in the United States on temporary H-2B visas. Kehrer Brothers Construction will pay roughly $1.8 million for exposing at least eight employees to asbestos. Our team of asbestos exposure lawyers reports on this investigation below.

Inspectors for the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) found that Joseph Kehrer (the company’s manager) and other supervisors had instructed workers to remove material containing asbestos during the renovation of a former school. Kehrer threatened to fire workers if they reported the exposure to OSHA investigators.

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chemoA study recently published in JAMA Oncology found that cancer patients who underwent chemotherapy near the end of their life did not experience an improved quality of life. In fact, researchers concluded that chemotherapy directly contributed to worsened quality of life. The lung cancer lawyers at Pintas & Mullins detail this study below.

Researchers at the Weill Cornell Medical College reviewed end-of-life care in cancer patients and its effects of quality of life. Their results indicated a significant link between chemotherapy and decreased quality of life, even among patients who were otherwise in good health. Importantly, palliative chemotherapy – treatment designed for terminal patients to ease symptoms – did not have an impact on quality of life.

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lungsOur team of lung cancer lawyers strives to update this blog with the latest news and developments in lung cancer treatments. We report that a new drug for non-small cell lung cancer was recently approved as a first-line treatment, along with a companion diagnostic test.

First-line therapies – also called primary treatments or induction therapies – are accepted as the best treatments for a disease; if it does not cure the disease or results in severe side effects, other therapies may be added or replaced.

On July 13, 2015 the FDA announced its approval of Iressa (gefitinib) as a first-line treatment for patients with a certain type of non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) characterized by gene mutations. The gene mutations cause tumors to harbor epidermal growth factor receptors, and can be detected by an FDA-approved test. NSCLC is the most common type of lung cancer and the epidermal growth factor mutations are present in about 10% of these tumors.

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surgeonOur team of mesothelioma and lung cancer lawyers knows how hard it can be to cope with and discuss a cancer diagnosis, particularly when it concerns such a devastating form. Patients with life-threatening illnesses need to speak openly with their doctors and loved ones about their priorities, treatment goals, fears and ultimate wishes. A new book, Being Mortal, aims to help patients and their families address these issues.

Mesothelioma is an extraordinarily fatal cancer; most patients are not diagnosed until the cancer is in advanced stages, aggressively spreading to other organs. Fortunately, as cancer treatments advance and new discoveries are made, mesothelioma patients (and cancer patients of all types) are experiencing better prognoses. Still, the average life expectancy for someone diagnosed with mesothelioma remains about one year.

Dr. Atul Gawande, a surgeon and prolific writer, tackles terminal cancer care in Being Mortal. As much as the book highlights case studies, financial costs, and palliative care, it is also call for reform in the philosophy of health care. Rather than encouraging doctors to overestimate survival rates and aggressive cancer treatments, Gawande leans toward enabling well-being and ensuring patients make the most of their remaining time.

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lung xrayFor several years now, cancer patients have read and heard about the potential power of immunotherapy, but have been largely unable to receive these types of treatments as they were still in research and development. At this year’s Annual Society of Clinical Oncology meeting, in a special session, a doctor presented an incredibly successful immunotherapy trial known as CheckMate 057.

This trial involved patients with non-squamous non-small cell lung cancer. The results – an overall survival rate improvement of eight to eleven months –signify a new standard of care for lung cancer patients throughout the country. Our team of lung cancer lawyers reports on the CheckMate 057 trial and its implications for those fighting cancer.

The CheckMate trial compared the drug nivolumab with a chemotherapy drug called docetaxel in lung cancer patients who had previously received treatment. The presenting doctor stood before a packed and hushed auditorium; it quickly became clear that this trial was not simply another “wait and see,” study. This was something doctors could bring back to their patients, to give them another chance to live longer than they would have with chemotherapy, radiation or surgery.

These three treatments, chemo, radiation and surgery, have been the standard of care for decades. Patients diagnosed with early-stage cancers can often be cured by surgery, by removing all of the cancerous tumors. Those with later-stage cancers are often prescribed chemotherapy and radiation, not to cure their disease, but to hopefully lengthen the amount of time they have left and lessen the severity of the disease.

An Independent Data Monitoring Committee unanimously declared nivolumab superior in overall survival versus docetaxel. Side effects were also noticeably less severe in patients receiving nivolumab over the other drug – severe adverse events occurred in just 10% of nivolumab patients, compared to 54% of docetaxel patients. Therefore, nivolumab not only contributes to better survival, but is substantially less toxic.

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chemo no moreA piece recently published by NPR highlighted an issue that we believe is critically important: access to alternative treatments for lung cancer and mesothelioma patients. Our team of lung cancer lawyers details this article and the inspiring story behind it.

The National Comprehensive Cancer Network is an association made up of 26 esteemed cancer centers in the world. The Network publishes guidelines used by oncologists throughout the country to help develop treatment plans for patients. A group of lung cancer patients recently made suggestions to change the Network’s guidelines to reflect new advances in a certain type of late-stage lung cancer.

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file000788055222Managed care and health insurance companies are trying to set cancer drugs pricing based on how well they work for patients. These so-called pay-for-performance deals with pharmaceutical companies would greatly benefit patients and families struggling with the rising cost of cancer medications.

Our team of lung cancer lawyers recently reported on the dangers of rising drug costs, particularly among cancer medications, many of which cost more than $100,000 per patient per year. Experts have been warning about the consequences of rising drug prices for the past decade and the tide is finally beginning to turn as doctors, hospitals, insurers and health managers are outright refusing to pay for or prescribe these overpriced drugs.

Traditionally, neither American doctors nor the FDA consider drug pricing when deciding whether a drug would be safe and effective in patients. Recently oncologists at Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, one of the country’s most esteemed hospitals, refused to offer a cancer drug because of its outrageous price. The drug, Zaltrap, was nearly identical to another drug already on market but cost twice as much: $11,000 per month. And it is useless when used on its own. Zaltrap is a second-line treatment, meaning it must be used in addition to other chemotherapies.

This was the first doctor-initiated revolt against drug prices in recent memory. What happens next? One health manager, Express Scripts Holding, is arguing for one possibility: pricing drugs based on how well they work. Health managers say they should pay less when drugs do not work well in certain patients with certain types of tumors.

Currently, insurers and managers pay the same per-unit price for all cancer drugs regardless of what type of tumor it is being used to treat. Drugs work differently for different cancers, however. The drug Tarceva, for example, extends the life of pancreatic cancer patients by an average of just two weeks, though it extends lung cancer patients’ survival by about 3.5 months.

Therefore, Express Scripts is seeking to pay less for Tarceva for pancreatic cancer patients than for lung cancer patients. Tarceva costs $6,850 per month.

The U.S. spent $42.4 billion on oncology drugs in 2014. Yet, most cancer drugs provide minor survival benefits, shrinking tumors but never eradicating them fully.

Change in the Face of Public, Physician Scrutiny

Pharmaceuticals as a whole treat symptoms rather than underlying causes; this is why our national reliance on drugs has made us sicker instead or healthier, draining our healthcare system while fattening the pockets of Big Pharma.

A director at Sloan Kettering Cancer Center proposed a similar pay-for-performance model last year. He suggested dropping the price of the drug Erbitux, which typically costs $10,320 per patient, to about $420 per patient for its least-effective use (metastatic head and neck cancer).

Insurers and managers are also seeking simple price cuts, which Big Pharma has been able to avoid due to the country’s fragmented healthcare system. Other tactics include providing new drugs for free for the first few months. If the drug works, patients are then expected to pay full price; if not, the patient is free to move on to another treatment.

Many drug companies are experimenting with various alternative-pricing systems due in no small part to public dislike and distrust. Physicians know that the rise in drug prices has far exceeded drugs’ effectiveness – but a stunning number of patients do not. A study recently published showed that nearly 70% of advanced lung cancer patients did not understand that the drugs used in their treatments would not cure them.
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syringes-and-vial-1028452-m.jpgAn agreement between the Cuban Immunology Center and a New York cancer institute was recently finalized, bringing a new lung cancer vaccine to American patients. The vaccine, Cimavax, is expected to gain approval in six to eight months, with clinical trials set to begin in 2016.

Our team of lung cancer lawyers is currently investigating lung cancer claims for patients of all types, even former smokers.

The agreement was signed by New York Governor Andrew Cuomo during his visit to Cuba in April 2015. The partnership between the Roswell Park Cancer Institute and Center for Molecular Immunology in Cuba will bring the vaccine to the U.S. for the first time.

Cuba conducts some of the best and most innovative medical research in the world, particularly for vaccines and immunology. Cimavax was developed over a 25-year-period, and was made available to the Cuban public for free in 2011. One clinical trial conducted in 2008 showed that Cuban lung cancer patients who received the vaccine lived an average of 5 months longer than patients who did not receive the vaccine.

As relations between the U.S. and Cuba begin to normalize, potentially putting an end to a 55-year trade embargo, President Obama has used executive power to lift restrictions on medical and research equipment. The embargo still stands, however, and Congress will have to lift the embargo if collaborative research between the two countries can grow and evolve.

As a result of decades of diplomatic and economic sanctions, Cuba has been forced to be more innovative and creative than countries with more resources. Cuba spends a fraction of the money Americans do on healthcare, yet the average life expectancy is equal among the two nations.

Fidel and Raul Castro went to great lengths to strengthen the country’s medical research and biotechnology sectors, placing much emphasis on preventative medicine. Cuba now has one of the best immunology programs in the world, making numerous vaccination breakthroughs for meningitis, hepatitis, and now, lung cancer.

The Cuban Center for Molecular Immunology is expected to give the Roswell Park Cancer Institute all relevant data – including how it’s produced and past trial results – to submit to the FDA for approval. Fortunately, Cimavax seems to have very low toxicity and will be relatively inexpensive to produce and store.

How the Vaccine Works

Cimavax works by attacking a certain protein tumors produce into the bloodstream. When those proteins are attacked, the body naturally releases antibodies against a hormone called epidermal growth factor. This hormone typically incites cell growth, including the growth and spread of cancer cells. Therefore, Cimavax is a therapeutic vaccine, intended not to prevent cancer from occurring, but to target certain antibodies to keep tumors from growing. This can potentially keep even late-stage cancer in check, so the condition is chronic but manageable.

Researchers at the Roswell Park Cancer Institute are hoping to expand the use of Cimavax beyond this purpose, as drugs to keep cancer “chronic but manageable” already exist in the U.S. Roswell is planning to explore Cimavax’s potential to actually prevent cancer from occurring. Cuba has been unable to explore the vaccine’s preventative potential due to financial limits.
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file000685955324.jpgTalcum powder has recently been linked to ovarian and uterine cancer in women who used the product in the genital area over long periods of time. This has resulted in massive news coverage and multi-million dollar lawsuits against companies like Johnson & Johnson.

Lesser known, however, is the potential for talcum powder containing asbestos to cause asbestos-related disease, such as mesothelioma and lung cancer. Our team of talcum powder lawyers urges the public to make this risk known so exposure may be avoided at all costs.

A woman in California, Judith Winkel, was recently diagnosed with mesothelioma, which is a form of cancer caused exclusively by exposure to asbestos. Winkel believes her mesothelioma was caused by Cashmere Bouquet talcum powder, a brand Colgate sold in the mid-1990s. This particular brand of talc powder is known to be contaminated with asbestos.

Winkel and her husband sued Colgate-Palmolive Co. on five separate claims, including failure to warn and defective manufacturing. After just two hours of deliberation, the jury unanimously found in favor of Winkel on all counts and determined that Colgate acted with malice by knowingly endangering consumers using Cashmere Bouquet. Winkel and her husband were awarded $13 million in damages.

Spontaneous Mesothelioma in Women

A study published in 2014 in the American Thoracic Society Journal examined seven women diagnosed with mesothelioma who had no other source of asbestos exposure except for the use of Cashmere Bouquet talcum powder. The researchers intended to prove that Cashmere Bouquet was the causative factor in their mesothelioma development.

Researchers began by testing 50 containers of Cashmere Bouquet talc powder from a variety of sources for the presence of asbestos. They found varying amounts of asbestos in the talcum powder. One of the patients died during the course of the study; after death, her lungs and lymph nodes were tested for the presence of asbestos. Medical experts found substantial amounts of asbestos with similar core fibers of those found in the Cashmere Bouquet powder.

Researchers concluded that the patient’s mesotheliomas were caused by a combination of asbestos and talc.

Mesothelioma is most common among industrial workers who have been directly exposed to airborne asbestos, such as construction workers and pipefitters. Many people diagnosed with mesothelioma never worked in high-risk occupations, however. “Idiopathic” or “spontaneous” mesothelioma is the term for mesothelioma that occurs in the absence of any asbestos exposure.

Between 70-80% of women with mesothelioma are regarded as idiopathic, as they have no known history of asbestos exposure. Far too many women are unaware that talcum powder products like Cashmere Bouquet contained asbestos and may be the cause of their exposure.

Another, equally important possible source of exposure is through family members who work around asbestos. A 2014 study from the Danish Medical Journal found that nearly half of women diagnosed with mesothelioma were exposed to asbestos at home. Thus, this type of illness is often called “take-home” or “second-hand” mesothelioma.
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