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CARD to participate in meso study

| August 10, 2005 12:00 AM

By STEVE KADEL Western News Reporter

The Center for Asbestos Related Disease in Libby will soon participate in a study aimed at earlier detection of the rare lung cancer mesothelioma.

Dr. Brad Black of the CARD clinic said Monday he is co-investigator in a project with Dr. Harvey Pass, former chief of the National Institute of Health and currently chief thoracic surgeon at New York University.

The study involves taking blood samples from people to determine their level of a protein found in mesothelioma cells.

"When there's abnormal growth, there's increased production of this cell," Black said. "The question is, how much is abnormal? What level of elevation is indicative of possible mesothelioma?"

CARD center personnel will draw blood and ship the samples to Pass for study. The local clinic will not receive results of individual blood samples, said Tanis Hernandez, CARD clinic outreach coordinator.

When Pass has concluded his research, overall results will be given to CARD officials and that data will be made available to the local community, she said. However, Hernandez emphasized that publicized results will be for the entire study rather than person-by-person.

"No individual will stand out," she said.

A broad cross-section of the local community is sought for participation in the study. CARD officials will release specific information about how to get involved in a week or so.

The mesothelioma cell protein under scrutiny is called a "marker" for purposes of the study. It's one of two mesothelioma-related projects Pass is about to launch.

"Dr. Pass has another marker showing great potential," Hernandez said.

Black emphasized that clinical research such as the blood protein study is the backbone of efforts to gain more knowledge about illnesses such as mesothelioma. He recently attended a two-day asbestos health conference in Missoula where updates were given on molecular research being conducted around the nation.

Black said molecular, or lab research, is important but its benefits to patients rely on clinical evaluations as well.

"We need to guide them (molecular researchers) in the right direction to be looking," Black said. "What we learn here in Libby will direct them. Then you have a much better chance of succeeding. All the beginnings of research begin here because here's where the people are."

Hernandez also attended the conference at the University of Montana. She acknowledged that some information she and CARD clinic associate Pat Cohan presented looked back at a time when Libby was split over the asbestos issue, with some residents denying a threat from the W.R. Grace plant and others concerned about potential health problems.

People have taken positive strides since then, she said.

"The community has come together, and our health care community is doing great," Hernandez said.