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Asbestos Union Leaders Form Agreement With Fox Chase Cancer Center For New Lung Screening Program

PHILADELPHIA (September 1, 1999) -- Leaders from the International Association of Heat and Frost Insulators and Asbestos Workers Local 14 have taken an aggressive step forward to offer the best lung care for their members. Michael Burns, Local 14 fund administrator, and Patrick Eiding, Local 14 business manager, met with Michael Unger, M.D., Director of the Pulmonary Cancer Detection and Prevention Program and Director of the Pulmonary Endoscopy and High-Risk Lung Cancer Program at Fox Chase Cancer Center. Together, they have finalized a new plan to serve the medical screening needs of the union members and their families.

Asbestos workers and their families are at high risk for certain lung diseases due to their exposure to asbestos. Annual screenings can detect these diseases in their earliest stages when they are the most easily treated.

When union members come to Fox Chase for preventive care, their initial visit with Dr. Unger will include a complete medical history and evaluation along with a series of routine and specialized tests. Included are a chest x-ray and other pulmonary function testing to screen specifically for lung disease. The results of this testing will then determine further assessment needs, including screening using LIFE.

New technology available at Fox Chase Cancer Center includes the LIFE (lung imaging fluorescence endoscopy) system. LIFE requires no injection of any drug or radioisotope. It identifies pre-malignant and early malignant lesions as small as one to two millimeters, undetectable by any other technique. Such tiny tumors would be missed by routine bronchoscopy - the standard procedure using a lighted tube that physicians ordinarily use to diagnose thoracic tumors.

"We have integrated LIFE technology into a program of early detection and prevention," Dr. Unger explained. "The goals of this program are to identify and screen smokers and other people at high risk of developing new cancers of the lung."

While at Fox Chase, Burns and Eiding also met with Joseph R. Testa, Ph.D., a leading researcher at Fox Chase, devoted to studying mesothelioma. Mesothelioma is one of the most deadly occupational diseases and is directly related to the inhalation of loose asbestos fibers. Union members who have been diagnosed with the disease will have the option to donate samples of tumor tissue for research. Dr. Testa studies molecular genetic changes in this tissue. The goal of his research is to identify genetic changes, particularly early molecular alterations, that are characteristic of the disease and that may lead to the development of new and more effective ways to diagnose and treat patients.

"We believe in Fox Chase's commitment to mesothelioma research and to prevention and early detection of lung cancer. We're excited to take this proactive step in addressing the health needs of our union members and their families," said Eiding.

"The union members want to come to Fox Chase Cancer Center to get the best care," declared Dr. Testa. "It's great to see how the leaders of Local 14 hope to help their fellow union members by taking part in studies that could lead to earlier diagnosis and intervention."

Fox Chase Cancer Center is one of 36 National Cancer Institute-designated comprehensive cancer centers in the nation. Fox Chase activities include basic and clinical research; prevention, detection, and treatment of cancer; and community outreach programs.

Fox Chase Cancer Center, part of the Temple University Health System, is one of the leading cancer research and treatment centers in the United States. Founded in 1904 in Philadelphia as one of the nation’s first cancer hospitals, Fox Chase was also among the first institutions to be designated a National Cancer Institute Comprehensive Cancer Center in 1974. Fox Chase researchers have won the highest awards in their fields, including two Nobel Prizes. Fox Chase physicians are also routinely recognized in national rankings, and the Center’s nursing program has received the Magnet recognition for excellence four consecutive times. Today, Fox Chase conducts a broad array of nationally competitive basic, translational, and clinical research, with special programs in cancer prevention, detection, survivorship, and community outreach.  For more information, call 1-888-FOX CHASE or (1-888-369-2427).

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