The International Association of Heat and Frost Insulators and the Meso Foundation recently funded an internship for a Notre Dame student to conduct mesothelioma research. Alissa Bahr will intern at the University of Chicago under renowned mesothelioma specialist Dr. Hedy Kindler.

Dr. Kindler is known for her research in novel mesothelioma treatments. She is a rare example of someone who specializes in treating peritoneal and pleural mesothelioma. Dr. Kindler is also an expert in gastrointestinal and pancreatic cancer treatment.

A Head Start on Understanding Mesothelioma Development

Bahr’s work will build on research she completed during a previous internship with Dr. Kindler. Last year, Bahr worked on a demographic study of 56 mesothelioma patients, analyzing their genetic makeup and how it related to their diagnosis.

Bahr is using this data to study how genetic mutations in healthy epithelial cells develop into cancerous mesothelioma tumors.

Bahr said in a press release to the Kalamazoo Gazette that Dr. Kindler is “the best mentor a student could ask for.”

Sculpting Future Mesothelioma Specialists

The top mesothelioma specialists in the country are among the best minds in the field of medicine. Interested minds like Bahr get a head start with funding and research opportunities.

Dr. David Sugarbaker, often touted as the best pleural mesothelioma surgeon in the country, has mentored several of the country’s current top specialists. This illuminates the importance of mentoring future specialists. This is part of the goal for Dr. Kindler, the Meso Foundation and the Insulator’s union.

Recruiting talented individuals early in their career is important because mesothelioma is an extremely rare cancer.

There are approximately 77 times more breast cancer diagnoses each year than mesothelioma.

While it’s certainly good that less people are diagnosed with mesothelioma, this means it is harder to treat. Breast cancer also has a better survival rate because doctors have been able to conduct more research.

The hope of motivating students to pursue mesothelioma research early on could reduce the lack of knowledge about the disease. After all, the reason doctors like Kindler are so talented is partially due to their length of time in the field.

Dr. Kindler’s Value as a Mentor

It’s slightly remarkable that Dr. Kindler is mentoring a student in mesothelioma research because she has so much work. Then again, a large part of her work is in research.

Dr. Kindler is always involved in clinical trials, and is currently the principal investigator in two separate Phase II mesothelioma trials. One trial is for pleural patients and the other for peritoneal patients.

Dr. Kindler has also co-authored three studies this year. All in all, she has a talent for covering a vast amount of research, which will hopefully translate to the students like Bahr that she mentors.

Insulators Team Up with the Meso Foundation

Given that asbestos is an insulating and fire resistant mineral, it’s not surprising that many people who have worked with insulation were exposed to asbestos. This mineral is the culprit in the development of mesothelioma and other asbestos-related diseases.

Some estimates suggest that approximately 10 percent of insulation workers develop an asbestos-related disease due to occupational exposure in their lifetime. The International Association of Heat and Frost Insulators and Allied Workers (HFIAW), therefore, has a high stake in furthering the research of mesothelioma treatment.

The HFIAW represents almost 30,000 men and women working in insulation. If the estimates are correct, nearly 3,000 of these workers will develop an asbestos-related disease, including mesothelioma, asbestosis and lung cancer.

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    About the Writer, Andrew Devine

    Andrew Devine is a contributing writer for Mesothelioma Guide. He has developed an interest in educating patients and their families on everything from new treatments to what to expect after diagnosis.