The Pacific Mesothelioma Center at the Pacific Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, Los Angeles, serves as a dedicated research and treatment facility for pleural mesothelioma. The PHLBI was first founded in 2002 as a non-profit research institution to develop early diagnostic techniques, new treatments, and preventative steps for diseases of the blood, heart, and lungs.
About the Pacific Mesothelioma Center
The Pacific Mesothelioma Center is a unique facility in that it is dedicated to a rare disease and only one type, pleural mesothelioma. It is also special because when established in 2012, it was the only fully in-house medical research lab. All the research the scientists and experts do at the PMC is done right in the Los Angeles facility.
The PMC is also unique in its ultimate and underlying mission: to find a cure for mesothelioma. Not many research institutions set out to achieve such a lofty goal.
Mesothelioma, of all cancers, is among the most difficult to treat. To cure it would be a significant source of hope and inspiration for many. While this is the ultimate goal of the PMC, the more immediate goal is to conduct innovative research and provide patients with the kind of care that gives them longer lives with a greater quality of life.
Dr. Robert Cameron
Dr. Robert Cameron is a leading expert recognized throughout the world medical community in diagnosing and treating mesothelioma. He is a cardiothoracic surgeon and a professor of surgery at the University of California, Los Angeles, and also serves as the scientific advisor for the PMC.
He also directs the school’s mesothelioma program at the David Geffen School of Medicine and is chief of thoracic surgery for the West Los Angeles Veterans Affairs Hospital.
Dr. Cameron is an outspoken advocate and proponent of treating pleural mesothelioma with less-invasive surgeries whenever possible and without removing a lung. Other surgeons and experts in mesothelioma perform a radical surgery on some patients called an extrapleural pneumonectomy.
It is a difficult and risky surgery that removes one lung. Dr. Cameron believes it should never be performed because it greatly reduces the quality of life, it is too risky, and he claims it is not more effective than lung-sparing surgeries.
In his career, he has not just spoken out against removing a lung from patients with mesothelioma. He has also been instrumental in developing an alternative procedure, the pleurectomy/decortication procedure.
This procedure removes much of the tissue in a patient’s chest cavity but spares the lung. It is often also followed by rounds of chemotherapy, radiation therapy, or both.
Under Dr. Cameron’s direction, the PMC conducts research that helps to:
- make earlier diagnoses
- advance the knowledge of pleural mesothelioma
- treat patients in ways that increase their life expectancy while also maintaining a good quality of life
A critical area of research at the PMC is immunotherapy. This is a strategy for treating cancer that uses the patient’s immune system to kill cancer cells and shrink tumors.
The PMC’s research broadly falls into two categories. The first is developing targeted therapies. These are biologic compounds or drugs specifically designed to target an individual’s cancer cells.
The idea of the PMC is to use these compounds along with pleurectomy/decortication surgery to make pleural mesothelioma more of a manageable, chronic illness and one that patients can actually survive.
The second category of research is designed to develop ways of preventing mesothelioma from forming in the body.
Treating Mesothelioma Patients
Research is a big part of what the experts at the PMC do, but the Center is also dedicated to treating patients. All treatment here focuses on each individual’s needs.
It also prioritizes lung-sparing surgery and a multi-modal approach that uses both surgery and other treatments. These others may be chemotherapy, radiation therapy, immunotherapy, or other more innovative therapies.
Patients at the PMC may also participate in clinical trials. These studies help the researchers determine if new treatments are effective and safe, but they also allow patients to benefit from new treatments that have don’t yet have approval.
The doctors at the PMC help patients decide if participating in a clinical trial makes sense or if it is too risky. Regardless of the specific treatment plan designed for a patient, the underlying philosophy of treatment at the PMC is to treat mesothelioma as a chronic illness.
Working with Veterans
Because of its affiliation with the West Los Angeles Veterans Affairs Medical Center, the PMC does a lot of work with veterans. U.S. veterans, especially Navy veterans, have some of the highest rates of mesothelioma among all populations.
This is because the military used asbestos heavily for decades. It was used in aircraft, vehicles, barracks, and other buildings, but it was particularly heavily used in ships in the Navy. Asbestos was used so heavily because it could add important fireproofing and strength to vessels without adding very much extra weight.
Now, because of the use of asbestos, thousands of veterans have developed pleural mesothelioma and other related asbestos illnesses. Through the VA and the PMC, veterans have the option to get care from the leading experts in mesothelioma.
The West Los Angeles VA facility has been partnering with UCLA since 1988, and the addition of the PMC adds even more treatment options for these veterans.
The Pacific Mesothelioma Center is an important and unique center for mesothelioma research and treatment of patients. The work conducted here is not only advancing the knowledge of mesothelioma and how to treat it but is actually extending people’s lives and helping them enjoy a better quality of life.Get Your FREE Mesothelioma Packet
Page Edited by Patient Advocate Dave Foster
Dave has been a mesothelioma Patient Advocate for over 10 years. He consistently attends all major national and international mesothelioma meetings. In doing so, he is able to stay on top of the latest treatments, clinical trials, and research results. He also personally meets with mesothelioma patients and their families and connects them with the best medical specialists and legal representatives available.