Two New Board Members Join The Pacific Mesothelioma Center to Help Fight Mesothelioma

Kellie Sutherland (2)

LOS ANGELES, April 10th 2017 – The Pacific Heart, Lung & Blood Institute (PHLBI), a division of which is the Pacific Mesothelioma Center (PMC), has announced the appointment of Kellie Sutherland and Joseph Garland to its board of directors.

Kellie, an engineer who has worked with Northrop-Grumman for the past nine years, received her Masters of Arts in Organization Management and a Bachelors of Science in Business Management at the University of Phoenix. Kellie has volunteered for the Institute for the last 2 years, arranging health fairs and lunch meetings to raise awareness for mesothelioma and has headed up a Northrop- Grumman walk team each year. She is appointed to the role of Secretary of the Board.

“I was impressed with this organization from the very beginning and that is why I have carried a banner for them. Now I am more than excited about being part of this board at this important time for the Institute as they make big strides in their mesenchymal stem cell research” said Kellie. I am honored to be working with such an amazing and dedicated team”.

Joseph Garland (21)The second appointment to the board is Joseph Garland, who is the Managing Partner and CEO at Centennial Harvest Group. Joseph has over 20 years in healthcare. He is board certified in Healthcare management and holds the distinction of Fellow, American College of Healthcare Executives.

He received an MBA in Health Services Management at Keller Graduate School of Management and a Masters in Health Administration from USC. Joseph is committed to advancing public health while improving Healthcare organization’s outcomes and sustainability.

“What interests me most about committing my time and energy to PHLBI is their mission and commitment to health advancements through research and innovation, and as such I feel the PMC’s mission is a good fit for me” Joseph stated.

“We are delighted with the appointment of both these dedicated and passionate individuals to the board of directors at a crucial time as we move forward in our fight to defeat mesothelioma”, said Rhonda Ozanian, chair of the board of directors at the PMC.

Immunotherapy 101

What is Immunotherapy?

  body defense

Photo Credit: The Cleveland Clinic

Immunotherapy is a treatment that utilizes the body’s own immune system to recognize and fight cancer.   It boosts the body’s natural defenses by either using substances made by the body or by using man-made components that make the immune system work better in attacking cancer.  Immunotherapy is also called biologic or biotherapy, since it uses substances made from living organisms to treat cancer.  Immunotherapy is not yet as widely used as surgery, chemotherapy and radiation therapy, but it has been approved to treat people with many types of cancer.  Clinical trials are ongoing to expand the use of immunotherapies for the treatment of many more kinds of cancer.  Currently, immunotherapies for mesothelioma are being researched and tested and are showing some promise.  However, they are not currently available for regular treatment.


How does Immunotherapy work?

The body’s immune system is designed to detect foreign invaders, such as bacteria or viruses, which could harm the body, and then target and destroy these invaders.  However, cancer cells typically avoid detection by the immune system because they evolve from the body’s normal cells.  This is because cancer cells are regular body cells that have mutated, or changed, to grow out of control.  Since they have some of the same protein markers as normal cells, the immune system does not recognize them as foreign invaders and leaves them alone, allowing the cancer to grow unchecked.  Immunotherapy is designed to alert the body’s immune system to the cancer cells so it will attack and destroy them.

Immunotherapy is a variety of treatments that work in different ways to improve or restore immune system function in fighting cancer, and can work in the following ways: 1) By stopping or slowing the growth of cancer cells, 2) By stopping cancer from spreading to other parts of the body, or 3) Helping the immune system work better at destroying cancer cells.  The specific types of immunotherapies used in cancer treatment are:

  • Monoclonal Antibodies
  • Adoptive T cell Transfer
  • Cytokines
  • Immune Checkpoint Inhibitors
  • Cancer Vaccines

Monoclonal Antibodies

Monoclonal antibodies are man-made versions of immune system proteins.  They are also known as “targeted therapies,” because these man-made antibodies target cancer cells, while leaving healthy cells unharmed.  Monoclonal antibodies mimic the immune system’s antibody response to pathogens in the body.  When the immune system detects a foreign substance in the body, it makes a large number of antibodies against the foreign invader.  The antibody is designed to stick to a protein on the invading substance called an antigen.  Once it finds the antigen on the foreign substance, it then alerts the immune system to attack the substance it has attached to.  Monoclonal antibodies are manufactured antibodies that are designed to stick to an antigen in a specific cancer. The manufactured antibodies are injected into patients and then attach themselves to a particular antigen on the cancer.  This then alerts the body’s immune system to find and attack the cancer cells.  The challenge for researchers has been in indentifying the specific antigen on a certain cancer.   So far, the FDA has approved monoclonal antibodies for use in the treatment of a dozen different cancers.

There are three different ways that monoclonal antibodies are used in the treatment of cancer:

  1. Naked Monoclonal Antibodies. These are monoclonal antibodies that work by themselves without a drug or radioactive material attached to them.  This is the most common way monoclonal antibodies are used.  They function by either attaching themselves onto cancer cell antigens and marking them for destruction by the immune system, or by blocking antigens on cancer cells that help them grow.
  2. Conjugated Monoclonal Antibodies. These are Monoclonal Antibodies that are joined to a chemotherapy drug or a radioactive particle.  The monoclonal antibody is used as a targeting mechanism, taking these substances directly to cancer cells, thereby lessening the damage to normal cells.  Conjugated monoclonal antibodies are also known as tagged, labeled or loaded antibodies.  They can be radiolabeled, meaning they have radioactive substances attached to them, or chemolabeled, meaning they have a chemotherapy drug attached to them.
  3. Bispecific Monoclonal Antibodies. These are two monoclonal antibodies that are joined together, which allows them to attach to two different antigens at the same time.  The purpose is for the monoclonal antibodies to bind to a cancer cell and an immune cell at the same time, thereby brining them together, and causing a more targeted immune response.

Monoclonal Antibodies are given intravenously (through a needle in the vein).  The side effects are similar to an allergic reaction and can include fever, chills, weakness, headache, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, low blood pressure and rashes.  These side effects are typically the result of stimulating the immune system into an immune response.  They tend to be most common when first given, and can diminish over time.



Adoptive T Cell Transfer

T cells are a type of white blood cell designed to hunt down and destroy foreign invaders within body.  Adoptive T Cell Transfer consists of taking T cells from a person’s cancerous tumor, isolating and/or modifying them, and then giving them back to the same person to fight their cancer.  After the T cells are removed from a tumor, they are then isolated to find out which ones are most active against the tumor or they are modified to make them more effective in destroying specific cancer cells.  Once they are identified or modified, the T cells are then grown in large batches, a process which can last from 2 to 8 weeks, depending on how fast a person’s T cells grow.  Once enough T cells are grown, they are injected back into the person.  Another name for this therapy is chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) T cell therapy.  Researchers are looking for other ways to use T cells in the treatment of cancer.



Cytokines are proteins made by immune system cells.  They play a vital role in regulating the communication and activity of the immune system and its ability to respond to cancer.  There are two groups of cytokines that are especially important in the treatment of cancer:

  1. These are a group of cytokines that help white blood cells communicate and grow more quickly to respond to a threat to the body.  There are more than a dozen kinds of interleukins, but one of them, Interleukin-2 (IL-2), has been shown to be especially helpful in the treatment of cancer.  IL-2 has been used both by itself to boost the immune system in response to cancer, or combined with chemotherapy drugs or other cytokines to boost its effect.  IL-2 can have very strong side effects, such as low blood pressure, abnormal heartbeat, chest pain and other heart problems, especially if combined with other treatments.   When IL-2 is administered in large doses, it requires a patient to be hospitalized.  Several other interleukins (IL-7, IL-12 and IL-21) are also being studied for use in cancer treatment.
  2. These are cytokines that help the body resist infections.  They are three proteins, released by T cells in reaction to foreign invaders in the body.  Interferons are named for the first three letters of the Greek alphabet:  interferon-alpha (IFN-alpha), interferon-beta (IFN-beta), and interferon-gamma (IFN-gamma).  Only IFN-alpha is used in the treatment of cancer.  It works by enhancing the ability of immune cells to attack cancer cells, and may also slow the growth of cancer cells or shrink the blood vessels that allow tumors to grow.  The side effects of IFN-alpha are flu-like symptoms, thinning hair, low white blood cell counts and skin rashes.

There are also drugs that have been developed that mimic cytokines in the body.  Three drugs that are currently in use are thalidomide (Thalomid), lenalidomide (Revlimid), and pmalidomide (Pomalyst).  These are known as immunomodulating drugs (IMiDs), and they work by enhancing the immune system’s response to cancer.  The side effects of these drugs include drowsiness, fatigue, low blood cell counts, and neuropathy (painful nerve damage).


Immune Checkpoint Inhibitors

The immune system has natural “brakes” or “checkpoints” that keep it from destroying healthy, normal cells.  Basically proteins on T cells, which are white blood cells that attack foreign invaders in the body, recognize and bind to a protein on a normal cell, telling the T cell not to attack it.  However, cancer cells, which are mutated normal body cells, can also use these checkpoints to avoid being detected by the immune system.  Immune Checkpoint Inhibitors are drugs that prevent the binding of T cell proteins to cancer cell proteins, allowing the immune system to be activated and attack the cancer.  There are two sets of proteins that are affected by Immune Checkpoint Inhibitors:

  1. PD-1 and PD-L1. PD-1 is a checkpoint on T cells that binds to PD-L1, which is a protein found on other cells.  When PD-1 and PD-L1 bind together, it communicates it works as an “off-switch” to the T cell, telling it to leave the other cell alone.  However, some cancer cells can have large amounts of PD-L1, causing them to escape being attacked by the immune system.  Immune Checkpoint Inhibitors, block either PD-1 or PD-L1, stopping the binding of T cells to cancer cells, then allowing the T cell to attack the cancer.  One of the main concerns with Immune Checkpoint Inhibitors is that they can also allow the immune system to attack normal, healthy cells in the body.  This can lead to serious side effects such as:  skin rash, fatigue, cough, nausea, loss of appetite and itching.  They can also cause organ damage, such as serious problems of in the lungs, intestines, liver, kidneys, hormone-making glands or other organs.
  2. CTLA-4. CTLA-4 is another protein that works to stop T cells from attacking other cells.  Like normal cells, cancerous cells can send signals to CTLA-4 receptors on T cells to prevent them from being attacked by the immune system.  Drugs that block the cancer cell’s ability to send signals to the CTLA-4 receptor then expose the cancer as an invader and allow the body’s immune system to respond.  An example of this is the drug, tremelimumab, which is being researched to help treat patients with mesothelioma.  Tremlimumab binds to the CTLA-4 receptor on the surface of T-cells, allowing T cells to recognize the cancer and potentially attack mesotheiloma cells.


Cancer Vaccines

Cancer vaccines come in two forms:  those that prevent cancer, and those that are used to treat cancer.  There are some forms of cancer that can be caused by viruses.  Cancer prevention vaccines work by preventing the virus that can cause the cancer.  In this way, they work the same as regular vaccines by exposing individuals to low-dose or killed viruses, which triggers an immune response.  Currently, cancer prevention vaccines are being used to prevent Human papillomavirus (HPV), which can lead to cervical cancer, anal cancer, vaginal, vulvar, penile and other cancers; and Hepatits B (HBV), which can lead to liver cancer.  Cancer prevention vaccines protect against cancer by targeting a virus that might lead to cancer, but they do not target the cancer cells directly.

Cancer treatment vaccines work by activating the immune system to target cancer cells in someone who has already developed cancer.  Cancer treatment vaccines can be made from cancer cells taken from patients, parts of cancer cells or even just the antigen on the cancer cell.  Vaccines are often combined with other substances, called adjuvants, to boost the immune system response further.   The vaccine introduces a special antigen from the cancer cell into the body, causing the immune system to respond by attacking the cancer cells.  The advantage of cancer treatment vaccines is that the immune system has memory for antigens to which it has been exposed, opening the possibility that the vaccine might work long after it is given. As of now, the most promising cancer treatment vaccine is Provenge, which is used in the treatment of prostate cancer.

About the Author

unnamed-5 Sri Ramakumar is a freelance writer with a Master of Science (MS) in Family Studies & Human Development and a Master of Social Work (MSW) from the University of Arizona and the University of Minnesota respectively.  She also has a Bachelor of Arts  in English Composition from the University of Washington.  She was also a research assistant at the University of Arizona studying the role of parenting in the social and emotional development of children. Currently, Ms. Ramakumar works as a freelance writer focusing on medical and behavioral health issues for various nonprofits. Ms. Ramakumar resides in Tucson, Arizona with her husband and four children.


Fabio Returns as Celebrity Grand Marshal for the 5th Annual “The Greatest Escape” Motorcycle Ride


Model Fabio Returns as Celebrity Grand Marshal for the 5th Annual “The Greatest Escape” Motorcycle Ride for Mesothelioma Research in Los Angeles

LOS ANGELES, CALIFONIA , USA, April 4, 2017 / — The Pacific Mesothelioma Center (PMC) at the Pacific Heart, Lung & Blood Institute (PHLBI) is thrilled to announce the fifth annual “The Greatest Escape” Motorcycle Ride, proudly presented by Asbestos Injury Law Firm Worthington & Caron, P.C. The ride will be on Sunday June 4, 2017 and, for the first time ever, will start at two locations: Top Rocker Harley Davidson in Canoga Park and Antelope Valley Harley Davidson in Lancaster. The escorted ride will follow routes through beautiful Angeles National Forrest, concluding at historic Newcomb’s Ranch on Angeles Crest Highway. The event benefits victims of mesothelioma, a devastating cancer caused by asbestos that disproportionally affects veterans who were exposed to asbestos while serving their country.

Both starting locations will open for check-in, registration, and refreshments at 8:30 a.m. At 10 a.m. it’s “kickstands up” as riders are escorted on their way to the twisting and scenic roads of Angeles National Forrest. Riders will be joined by Celebrity Grand Marshal Fabio, along with a host of celebrities including Larry Wilcox of CHiP’s, Sons of Anarchy actor Rusty Coones, Mayans M.C. actor Antonio Jaramillo, Buffy the Vampire actress Kristy Swanson, and Olympic medalist Lloyd Eisler. All roads lead to Newcomb’s Ranch where riders will enjoy a BBQ lunch, refreshing Worthy Brewing craft beers, live music, raffle, and prizes valued at thousands of dollars. K-Earth 101 Morning Show DJ, Gary Bryan, will serve as emcee for the festivities at the Ranch.

Inspired by “The Great Escape” movie and its star, motorcycle enthusiast Steve McQueen who lost his own battle with mesothelioma in 1980, the ride brings hundreds of riders and non-riders together to honor those who fought valiantly against mesothelioma, support those currently fighting the disease, and raise money for research into a cure.

Celebrity model Fabio states “I am honored to once again serve as Grand Marshal for the Greatest Escape Motorcycle Ride to benefit the Pacific Mesothelioma Center. It is a great event for an important cause and I look forward to seeing everyone out there on June 4th”.

The event is open to all–riders as well as non-riders who simply want to join the fun. The registration fee is $35 for riders and $15 for passengers who register online by June 3, 2017. On-site registration is an additional $5. The fee includes a ride pin, bandanna, lunch, entertainment, and parking. For non-riders tickets are $20 for lunch, entertainment, and parking. To register, visit To sponsor this event, contact Clare Cameron at (310) 478-4678 or email All proceeds will go towards mesothelioma research and improving the quality of life for victims of mesothelioma.

About Us: Established in 2002, PHLBI is a 501(c)(3) non-profit institution. The PMC, a division of the PHLBI, is focused on the treatment and prevention of malignant pleural mesothelioma. The PMC serves a growing number of mesothelioma victims by supporting the nation’s first-of-its-kind research lab which provides laboratory-to-the bedside research that improves mesothelioma victims’ lives and longevity.


Inquiries with the Investigator: CAR-T Cell Therapy

Immunotherapy – a class of treatments that uses the body’s own immune system to fight cancer – has increasingly gained widespread acceptance from leading biomedical scientists. There are various types of immunotherapeutic agents. Recently one approach to immunotherapy called “Chimeric Antigen Receptor T-Cell Therapy (CAR-T-Cell Therapy) has received a great deal of attention and is finding success in current clinical trials.  CAR-T Cell Therapy entails engineering a patient’s own immune cells to recognize and attack their tumors.  Investigator Ray Wong explains in greater detail below what CAR-T Cell therapy is, what the risks are, and what the future of this form of immunotherapy might look like.


  • How does Chimeric Antigen Receptor T-Cell therapy (CAR-T Cell therapy) work?

The current generation of CAR T cell therapies being tested in clinical trials involves a complex manufacturing process.  A patient’s immune cells are first removed from their bloodstream through a process called leukapheresis.  Leukapheresis typically takes 2-4 hours, where a patient is connected to a machine that separates immune cells from the blood, and the remaining components are returned to circulation.  The immune cells are shipped to specialized manufacturing facilities where the T cells in the leukapheresis specimens are genetically engineered to insert specific anti-tumor receptors called chimeric antigen receptors (CAR).  The T cells are simultaneously grown to large numbers over 7-10 days, then shipped back to the patient for intravenous infusion by their oncologist.  CAR T cell therapy is currently combined with chemotherapy, which appears necessary to achieve full effectiveness of CAR T cells.

CAR-T Cell Diagram PNG

Photo Credit: UNC Lineberger

  • What are some of the limitations of CAR-T Cell therapy? Which cancers have the best response rate so far?

Other than the two week manufacturing time and high financial cost of treatment, the main limitation is that it thus far only works well in blood cancers like certain leukemias and lymphomas.  There does appear to be a high cure rate in certain blood cancers, with some clinical trials reporting well over 50% complete response rates (disappearance of all disease).  However, solid tumors like mesothelioma have been much more difficult to treat with CAR T cells.  The current prevailing hypothesis is that CAR T cells do not efficiently penetrate solid tumors and/or are shut down by immune suppressive factors often present in solid tumors.


  • What are your thoughts on the future of CAR-T-Cell therapy?

Patient safety is still the top concern of CAR T cell therapy.  The FDA has halted some clinic trials as recently as 2016 due to patient deaths.  CAR T cells are very powerful, and can causes excessive immune reactivity resulting in a condition called “cytokine release syndrome,” which can be fatal.  The interaction of CAR T cells combined with chemotherapy is still not fully understood.   The FDA may want several more years of extensive clinical trials to further study safety improvements of CAR T cell therapy.


Next-generation CAR T cells may not need to be custom manufactured for each patient.  Researchers are now exploring the use of a gene deletion technology called “clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats” (CRISPR) in the laboratory.  CRISPR might be used to convert T cells from healthy donors into universally compatible CAR T cells.  In laboratory studies, CRISPR can be used to delete proteins on the surface of T cells that normally would cause them to be rejected in genetically unrelated recipients.  If successful, this would allow for bulk manufacturing of “off-the-shelf” CAR T cells ready for immediate use, analogous to universally compatible Type O-negative blood.  CRISPR is also being studied to delete other genes in CAR T cells that would make them more resistant to immune suppression.  This might improve their effectiveness in solid cancers.

Caregiver Support: The Art of Staying Organized

22Acting as a caregiver for a loved one can be overwhelming and difficult to manage especially in the beginning.  Staying organized in all aspects, around the house, with the patient’s prescriptions, their schedule, doctor visits, and important documents is crucial.  We listed below several ways you can maintain an orderly routine both for yourself and your loved one.


  • Declutter : It may sound obvious but going through your things and getting rid of items you no longer need or use is important not only for your organizational needs, but also for your frame of mind. When your house, car, or office is cluttered it makes you feel anxious, stressed, and overwhelmed .  Ask a friend or family member to help you go through items and mark those to keep, give way, or throw away.
  • Keep a detailed calendar: You may think that you keep a detailed calendar already in your head however many people find it reassuring to see a detailed account of their schedule over the next few months.  You don’t need to panic wondering if you forgot something because where your supposed to be and when is right in front of you.  Keep track of your schedule by listing all appointments, reminders, social gatherings, and events on your calendar.  Use a hard copy calendar or an electronic calendar, whichever you feel most comfortable with and you will use.
  • Journal: Since you are the one who is accompanying your loved one to all of their appointments it is very important to keep a written account for posterity and as a reference if you ever need it.  Detail the patient’s day to day routine including their exercise, eating, medication schedule, sleep schedule and any potential health issues such as difficulty breathing, pains,  constipation, etc.  You can also write about your correspondence with various doctors, your insurance company, and your pharmacy so anyone who needed to know that information would have it at their disposal. Explore your thoughts, worries, and hopes in another journal where you can analyze your moods and ensure that you are taking care of yourself . This is a journal that you can either keep for yourself or share with a family member/friend who can use it to help understand what you are going through and how they can help.
  • Have a medication system:  Arrange all medication in a case or marked container and make sure that you have at least a weeks supply of all medications in case of an emergency and you are unable to get to a pharmacy.
  • Keep an information binder:  Organize the binder in whatever way makes sense to you and to a third party in the event that you are not there and someone needs certain information.  List all of your loved ones doctors, their contact info, the nurse practitioner on call’s info, their  appointment schedule, an overview of their treatment, medication names, dosages, and how often each is taken, your local pharmacy name, location, and phone number, a list of emergency family contacts, list of allergies, copies of identification cards, insurance cards, power of attorney for healthcare documents, and any other pertinent legal and medical documents.Organizational Tips for caregivers


Valentines Day Blood Donation Challenge

Be A

Be a Love, Donate your Blood!
This Valentines Day, The Pacific Mesothelioma Center invites our supporters to celebrate Valentines Day with us, eat some chocolates, and donate to our International Tissue Bank for Research.
Donations will be collected by PMC Nurse Practitioner Lien Hua-Feng at the PMC office on Santa Monica Blvd, Tuesday, February 14th from 12 pm to 7 pm.

Listen to Nurse Lien’s Tissue Bank Donation Appeal


Event Details:
Date: Tuesday, February 14th, 2017
Time: 12 pm to 7 pm
Location: 10780 Santa Monica Blvd Suite 101, Los Angeles, CA 90025
What You Should Bring: If you can, a filled out health questionnaire  for the researcher.

Information About the Tissue Bank


tissue bankStudies may be performed to test specific characteristics of your normal, tumor, and immune cells, and to determine the activity of novel medications and treatments.The knowledge gained from these studies as well as your tissues may be used to develop new commercial products in the fight against cancer. Click here for more info.


Become An Honorary PHLBI Associate Researcher

Associate Researcher Badge

 Everyone who donates to the PHLBI Tissue Bank for Research gets a pin naming them a “PHLBI Associate Researcher!”


Inquires with the Investigator : Using MSC’s in Placenta’s for Mesothelioma Research


What is a placenta?

A placenta is a flattened circular organ that develops in a woman’s uterus during pregnancy. The placenta attaches to the uterine wall and develops an umbilical cord which is then used to provide oxygen and nutrients to the growing baby while simultaneously removing waste products from the baby’s blood. The day of delivery the expectant mother delivers her baby and her placenta. Placentas are usually thrown out by hospitals after delivery, some mothers elect to keep it and have it made into a pill or shake and eat it, while others decide to donate the placenta for research.


Placenta Donations to The Pacific Mesothelioma Center

Over the last two years The Pacific Mesothelioma Center has received six placenta donations from families. The placentas biological makeup is rich in mesenchymal stem cells which are ideal for advancing the PMC’s research agenda. This past week Lead Research Investigator Raymond Wong received another placenta donation and took the time to share his process harvesting placentas and explaining their intrinsic value to research.


What are you getting out of the placenta and how does it help our research?

Placenta contains mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs), a type of cell that normally serves as a reservoir to replenish tissue – primarily fat, cartilage, and bone.  MSCs can be isolated from placenta and expanded to large numbers for laboratory research and also for medical treatment.  MSCs are of interest to medical researchers as they might be useful for treating certain degenerative conditions such as arthritis, diabetes, heart maladies, and even nervous system injuries.  Due to their natural anti-inflammatory properties, MSCs might also be useful for treating inflammatory conditions such as graft-vs-host disease and Crohn’s disease.  For cancer, MSCs are believed to preferentially migrate to malignant tumors.  This opens the possibility that MSCs can be engineered to deliver anti-cancer drugs preferentially to tumors, thereby increasing the potency of anti-cancer drugs while also limiting toxic side effects.  PHLBI is working on engineering MSCs to deliver immune-boosting proteins as a form of immunotherapy.


Explain the significance, if any, of the sex or ethnicity of the baby’s whose placenta is donated?

MSCs harvested and grown from placentas can originate from the mother, the baby, or a mixture of both.  The composition of each batch of MSCs is unpredictable with regard to the exact mixture.  The ethnicity of the mother or baby is unlikely to have significance.  The sex of the baby may influence the level of anti-inflammatory properties of the resulting batch of harvested MSCs.  This might impact the ability of a particular MSC batch to be universally compatible with genetically diverse recipients who are infused with donated MSCs.For reference, the immune system of males vs. females is generally known to be different.  For reference, females have higher incidences of inflammatory disorders, which might suggest that MSCs from a female baby have lower anti-inflammatory properties.  The lower anti-inflammatory properties of female-derived MSCs could possibly make them more prone to being rejected when infused into a genetically unrelated recipient.

newPNG *Pictured above is Lead Investigator Raymond Wong  working on a placenta donation last week in the lab.


Describe the process for getting mesenchymal stem cells out of a placenta? How long does it take?      

 Placentas are first cut into small pieces, and then digested for ~2 hours with an enzyme called collagenase to loosen MSCs.  The resulting mixture of digested placental cells contains a very small percentage of MSCs.  By growing the digested placental cell mixture in specialized nutrients, the small number of MSCs is expanded exponentially to large numbers.  This process results in nearly 100% purified MSCs within 3-4 weeks.


What is the difference between a placenta from a c-section and placenta from natural birth?

Biologically, there is no difference.  The main impact of c-section vs. natural birth is the amount of microbial contaminants on the placenta when it is obtained.  C-section is a sterile surgery, resulting in lower microbial contaminants.  Natural birth passes the placenta through the virginal canal, resulting in a much larger amount of microbial contaminates (yeast, bacteria, fungus, etc).  Nonetheless, our laboratory protocol for harvesting MSCs utilizes anti-fungal and antibiotic drugs to eliminate microbial contaminants.


 How many placenta donations are we looking to have donated each year?                                                              

We have averaged around 2-3 placenta donations each year.


 Are any embryonic stem cells cultivated from the placenta?                                                                                                  

MSCs are not embryonic stem cells.  They are considered “adult” stem cells, meaning they are derived from organs that have already developed (bone marrow, placenta, etc).

For questions, additional information, or inquires about how one can donate their placenta to research contact Lead Investigator Raymond Wong at (310)-474-1113 or by email at : .

Global Images USA Presents An Exclusive Showing of Original Photographic Works & Cocktail Party Event

A portion of the proceeds will benefit the Pacific Mesothelioma Center for its innovative mesothelioma research.

PicMonkey CollageLOS ANGELES, CA, U.S., January 17, 2017 / — On Wednesday, January 25th Global Images USA will host an art gallery viewing and cocktail evening showcasing iconic works from world-renowned photographers at a private Hollywood Hills residence (7044 Los Tilos Ave, Los Angeles, 90068) from 6:30 pm to 9:00 pm. Guests will have the opportunity to enjoy beautiful art works, great company, and award-winning locally brewed beer and cocktails. A portion of proceeds from the sale of these art pieces benefit The Pacific Mesothelioma Center (PMC), a nonprofit medical research institute that focuses on innovative mesothelioma research. Mesothelioma is a devastating form of cancer that results from exposure to asbestos and commonly affects the lining of the chest– the pleura.

This event is geared towards art collectors, photography fans, and old Hollywood aficionados. The prints and original art works for sale cover a broad spectrum of themes, offering something of interest for everyone. The eclectic assortment includes high fashion prints, intimate portraits, behind the scenes of the old Hollywood elite, aerial photography, and conceptual oil and acrylic paintings. There is no admission fee to attend the party. Guests will have the opportunity to purchase these works through a silent auction with a minimum bid and a buy-out option. The lists of artists whose works will be for sale include Helmut Newton, Frank Worth, David LaChapelle, Timothy White, Daniel Furon, Arney Freytag, Stephan Wayda, Ann McFerran, and many more. Additionally, some of the artists will be present at the event, offering perspective and background on their work and personally signing their sold prints.

The Pacific Mesothelioma Center’s Executive Director Clare Cameron shared “We are excited to partake in this wonderful event that brings together the art and the nonprofit world. Furthermore, we are delighted that Global Images USA thought of including us in this lovely evening,” she concluded.

About Global Images USA:
Global Images USA’s goal is to provide high quality, iconic images that complement any taste, location, or budget and provide great customer and artist experience. Their collections have been carefully selected to elicit an emotion that resonates with everyone and are excellently displayed in someone’s home, office, or as a gift.

The Use of Asbestos in Household Items


History of Asbestos Use in Homes:

asbestosdanger2Asbestos is a highly prevalent material that has been used in over 5,000 consumer products.  Asbestos, a naturally occurring, fibrous mineral, was valued for its strength and resistance to fire.  However, asbestos is also linked to the development of mesothelioma, a rare and life-threatening cancer of the lining of the lungs, stomach or heart.  Modern uses of asbestos began in the late 19th century, and continue till today.  Asbestos was used extensively in home construction from the early 1940’s through the 1970’s.  In 1975, asbestos was forbidden in the United States for use in fireproofing materials; however, asbestos-containing home attic insulation was still used in houses till 1990.  Even today, contrary to popular belief, asbestos is not completely banned in the United States.  US Federal regulations limit asbestos use, but many commercial and industrial products are allowed to be manufactured with asbestos.  Furthermore, many home building products and consumer goods, especially those produced before 1980, still contain asbestos.


Household Exposure to Asbestos and Mesothelioma:

Individuals can be exposed to asbestos within their own homes.  The link between asbestos exposure in the home and the onset of mesothelioma has been definitively established in family members (primarily wives, but in some cases children) of workers who had high levels of asbestos exposure in their occupations (such as construction, ship-building and repairing, petroleum refining, and mining and manufacture of asbestos products).  Asbestos fibers, usually on the clothing, skin and hair of workers, traveled into the home exposing family members, primarily housewives who laundered clothing.  In fact, these housewives have the second-highest mortality rate from malingnant pleural mesothelioma, after those exposed directly in their occupation.

The development of mesothelioma from exposure to asbestos contained in building materials has been found in several anecdotal studies and lawsuits, which have linked asbestos exposure in school buildings to the development of mesothelioma in some teachers and students.  So far, there aren’t any studies linking exposure to asbestos use in homes and household items to the development of mesothelioma.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) have stated that in homes, asbestos that is contained in solid material poses negligible risk of exposure.  In fact, air levels tested around undisturbed asbestos are 0.0002 f/cc, which is over 1000 times lower than OSHA’s permissible limit.  Asbestos exposure in the home becomes an issue only if the fibers are broken and disturbed, releasing them into the air where they can be inhaled.

Asbestos in Home Construction Materials:

asbestos plasterHomes built before 1980 contain a variety of building materials that contain asbestos.  Since then, the United States has regulated the use of asbestos in building materials.  Applications of asbestos that are banned in the US include:  1) Spray-applied surfacing asbestos-containing materials, 2) Wet-applied and pre-formed asbestos pipe insulation, and pre-formed asbestos block insulation on boilers and water-tanks, and 3) Corrugated paper, rollboard, commercial paper, specialty paper, flooring felt and new uses of asbestos.

When asbestos in home building is contained in solid material, it poses little risk.  However, if asbestos is disturbed by repairs, renovation, storm or fire-damage, asbestos fibers can be released into the air, where they are inhaled, creating the risk of mesothelioma and other illnesses.  Therefore, it is important for homeowners to know whether they have any asbestos-containing products in their houses.   Homeowners can contact an asbestos professional to assess their homes for asbestos risk and for containment or removal of asbestos-containing material.  The EPA regional office, local health department or Better Business Bureau in a given area will have a list of certified asbestos professionals.  Once asbestos products have been located, it is important to never saw, cut, use water-jets or burn asbestos-containing materials.  If repairs or renovation are needed, it is best to use an asbestos professional to do the work.  While the average homeowner has a very low risk of asbestos exposure, a homeowner who engages in unsafe renovation of asbestos-containing materials in the home increases his or her risk of exposure to a medium level.

Asbestos can typically be found in the following home construction materials, especially in those homes built before 1980:

  • Exterior:
    • Corrugate Wall and Roof Sheeting
    • Roof Guttering
    • Ridge Capping
    • Imitation Brick Cladding
    • Lining under the eaves
    • Window Glazing
  • Roof:
    • Roof Insulation
    • Base Flashing
    • Felt
    • Shingles
    • Tar or “Black Jack”
  • Electrical Products:
    • Cloth Wire Insulation
    • Electrical Breakers
    • Electric Panel Arc Chutes
    • Electrical Panel Partitions
    • Insulating Cloth
  • Wall Products:
    • Decorative plaster
    • Caulking and Putties
    • Spackling Compounds
    • Vinyl Wall Coverings
    • Wall Penetration Packing Materials
    • Wallboard Joint Compounds
    • Wallboard Sheet Rock
    • Cement Sheet Walls
  • Flooring Products:
    • Asphalt Floor Tiles
    • Carpet Mastic
    • Coving Mastic
    • Floor Tile Mastic
    • Vapor Barriers
    • Vinyl Floor Tiles
    • Vinyl Sheet Flooring (Linoleum)
  • Ceiling Products:
    • Acoustal Plaster
    • Ceiling Panels
    • Ceiling Texture (popcorn ceilings)
    • Ceiling Tiles
    • Ceiling Tile Mastic
  • Heating and Cooling System Products:
    • Fireplace Decoration
    • Boiler Insulation
    • Boiler Breeching Insulation
    • Cooling Towers
    • Duct Work Insulation
    • Gaskets
    • Heat Shields
    • HVAC Vibration Dampeners
    • Pipe Lagging Insulation
    • Pipe Elbow Insulation
    • Tank Insulation
    • Tank Casings


Asbestos in Consumer Household Items:

Asbestos has been used in a variety of commonly purchased consumer items, used in the home.  Consumers should read product labeling or contact the manufacturer to see whether a specific product contains asbestos.  Consumers should also exercise caution when purchasing items from overseas, as other countries still may use asbestos in the production of consumer goods.  For instance, asbestos is not banned in most South American countries, with the exception of Chile, Argentina and some parts of Brazil.  The only countries that have instituted a full of ban of asbestos include: Iceland, Finland, Denmark, Sweden, Norway, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, Germany, Austria, Luxembourg, France, Belgium, Poland, Czech Republic, Switzerland, Slovenia, Italy, Australia, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates.

Small Appliances

PicMonkey Collage asbestos products


Many older appliances, especially those manufactured before 1980, contain asbestos. These items can release fibers if they are disturbed or opened up for repair. These appliances include:

  • Hair Dryer
  • Coffee Pots
  • Toasters
  • Popcorn Poppers
  • Crock Pots
  • Irons
  • Portable Heaters
  • Portable Dishwashers

Modern appliances in the United States do not contain asbestos.

Automotive Products

Asbestos is still used in the automotive industry.  Automotive products that contain asbestos include:

  • Brake Linings
  • Brake Pads
  • Clutch Plates

Homeowners who engage in hobbies such as auto repair, may be exposed to asbestos when working on their cars.


Asbestos is naturally occurring in the soil.  Gardening can disturb asbestos filaments, sending them airborne, where they can be inhaled.  In addition, gardening products such as soil conditioners and fertilizers can contain asbestos-contaminated vermiculite.  For this reason, it is recommended that gardeners using these products wet them down to reduce any airborne asbestos filaments.

Other Household Items

Asbestos can be found in the other common household items:

  • Duct Tape (certain brands)
  • Talc Products: baby powder, cosmetics, and feminine hygiene products
  • Chalkboards
  • Vintage Asbestos Snow (fake snow found on Christmas Trees)
  • Crayons (before 1980)
  • Toys (older car racing sets)
  • Children’s Clay
  • Stove Top Pads
  • Yarn (before 1980)
  • Millboard (before 1980)
  • Older Ironing Board Covers
  • Electric Blankets
  • Fireproof Gloves
  • Wood-Burning Stoves
  • Gas-Fired Decorative Fireplace Logs

The variety of products that contain asbestos show that it is still widely used in the United States, and that consumer awareness of the uses of asbestos is vitally important.

About the Author

unnamed-5Sri Ramakumar is a freelance writer with a Master of Science (MS) in Family Studies & Human Development and a Master of Social Work (MSW) from the University of Arizona and the University of Minnesota respectively. She also has a Bachelor of Arts in English Composition from the University of Washington. She was also a research assistant at the University of Arizona studying the role of parenting in the social and emotional development of children. Currently, Ms. Ramakumar works as a freelance writer focusing on medical and behavioral health issues for various nonprofits. Ms. Ramakumar resides in Tucson, Arizona with her husband and four children.



Immunotherapy Inquiries

Inquiries with Investigator Raymond Wong : Immunotherapy 

  1. What is immunotherapy and how does it differ from more common types of cancer treatments such as chemotherapy, radiation, and surgery?

Immunotherapy comprises a class of treatments that activate patients’ immune systems to fight cancer.  In general, immunotherapy is better tolerated by patients and has fewer side effects than chemotherapy, radiation, and other molecular-targeted cancer drugs.  Furthermore, unlike chemotherapy, radiation, and surgery, the beneficial effects of immunotherapy often continue even after stopping treatment.  This is due to establishment of immunologic memory, similar to how preventive vaccines can protect an individual for years/decades after initial immunization.


  1. Why doesn’t the immune system naturally fight cancer?

Under normal circumstances, the immune system routinely detects and destroys cancer cells (even pre-cancerous cells).   Some cancer cells evade detection by the immune system and progress to form tumors.  This process of immune evasion can be rapid (weeks/months), or prolonged (years/decades).  Multiple mechanisms can allow cancer cells to evade the immune system, such as random mutations in cancer cells, and the overall health of the patient.  Scientists are still trying to fully understand how cancer cells evade the immune system.  Improved understanding of cancer immune evasion will help guide the development of new immunotherapies that effectively reverse these mechanisms.


  1. Describe the different types of immunotherapy? Which are the most successful?

Different forms of immunotherapy exist, including vaccines, cytokines, engineered antibodies, and engineered immune cells.  Most immunotherapies are administered intravenously, while some are injected subcutaneously.  The most successfully immunotherapies are immune checkpoint blockers, which are now FDA-approved for multiple cancer types.  Immune checkpoint blockers are engineered antibodies that target specific proteins that impair immune responses against tumors.  The patient’s immune system then becomes more active, sometimes resulting in complete destruction of existing tumors.

Other promising immunotherapies in clinical trials include chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) T cell treatment.  CAR T cells are created by removing T cells from a cancer patient’s circulating blood, engineering them with cancer-targeting receptors, and then re-infusing them back into the patient.  CAR T cells are showing a high cure rate for certain treatment-refractory blood cancers.  However, CAR T cells have limited potency against solid tumors, and side effects can sometimes be severe.  It will likely be years before CAR T cell technology is fully optimized to reduce side effects to acceptable levels.


  1. Which cancers are currently FDA-approved for immunotherapy treatment?

Melanoma, prostate cancer, lung cancer, kidney cancer, bladder cancer, and Hodgkin’s lymphoma.  Immunotherapy for other cancer types, like mesothelioma, are typically accessible only through clinical trials.


  1. What is the future of immunotherapy? How do you see it changing cancer treatment in the next five years? 

Currently, there is serious discussion of immune checkpoint blocker immunotherapy moving towards first-line treatment for melanoma and lung cancer.  As clinical trials progress, it is possible that these treatments may also become a first-line treatment option for other cancer types.  Combination immunotherapy, whereby different immunotherapy drugs are used together, is now being actively studied in clinical trials.  In fact, the first combination immunotherapy regimen (nivolumab + ipilimumab) was FDA-approved for melanoma in 2015.  This particular combination, and other combination immunotherapy regimens in development, is likely key to improving patient response rates.