IBEW Construction Council of Ontario donates $50,000 to Mesothelioma Research Program


(L-R Mesothelioma Research Program Coordinator Fatemeh Zaeimi, Dr. Marc de Perrot, IBEW's Patty DeMonte and John Grimshaw, Dr. John Cho and The Princess Margaret Cancer Foundation's Malka Greene)

The IBEW Construction Council of Ontario has donated $50,000 to Princess Margaret Cancer Centre’s Mesothelioma Research Program.

IBEW represents 11 local unions across Ontario and includes between 17,000 – 18,000 members, made up mostly of journeymen, apprentice electricians, lineman, equipment operators and communication workers.

Mesothelioma is an aggressive type of cancer caused primarily by workplace asbestos exposure. 

“It affects our members and we feel that the work The Princess Margaret is doing is important,” says John Grimshaw, Executive Secretary Treasurer with IBEW. “It’s a chance for us to give back.” 

Mesothelioma is a challenging cancer to treat as it usually isn’t caught until it has reached a late stage. Funding for research is critical to advancing new and better ways to help patients with this disease.

“Advancements in research wouldn’t be possible without philanthropy,” says Dr. Marc de Perrot, who developed the S.M.A.R.T. (Surgery for Mesothelioma After Radiation Therapy) technique with Dr. John Cho at The Princess Margaret in 2008.

The treatment, which is becoming the standard of care for eligible patients at The Princess Margaret, involves treating patients with high doses of radiation first to prevent mesothelioma cells from escaping to other areas of the body during surgery. 

Karl Richter was one of the original 25 patients to receive this treatment in 2011 and has since made a full recovery. 

“The Princess Margaret not only gave me my life back, but it had a huge impact on the life of my family as well,” says Richter.

He worked at a carpentry factory for a couple of years in his early 20s where he was exposed to asbestos.

“Funding mesothelioma research is essential because there are so many trades where you have to deal with asbestos and you have a higher risk of something going wrong,” he says.

Since the S.M.A.R.T. program was originally developed, research at The Princess Margaret has shown three days of radiation instead of the current standard of five can be just as effective, which would help to preserve the lungs of mesothelioma patients. 

A new trial using this method called S.M.A.R.T.E.R. is currently being launched at the Cancer Centre.

“The actual physical advantage at least, is it’s going to be easier on the patients. Preserving the lung is also a big advantage,” says Dr. de Perrot.

Drs. de Perrot and Cho are also doing research on screening, early diagnosis, radiation and immunotherapy to treat mesothelioma by examining the immune system on a larger scale. 

“This technology that’s being developed is expensive and this donation will really help us optimize our resources to move forward,” says Dr. de Perrot.