Recently, the Libby Epidemiology Research Program (LERP) lost its original and principal investigator, Dr. Stephen Levin, when he passed away. Dr. Raja Flores, chief of thoracic surgery at Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York will fill this important position. In addition to Dr. Flores, Dr. Claudia Henschke and Dr. David Yenkelevitz, both professors of radiology at Mount Sinai Medical Center, have assumed roles within the Program, bringing with them their expertise in the area of lung cancer screening.
LERP was initially started with the intention of focusing their studies on three specific areas that included assessing the relationship between asbestos exposure and autoimmune disorders, the progression of lung scarring, and the risk of asbestos exposure to children.
The patients in Libby who have developed lung disease from amphibole asbestos exposure have demonstrated a unique, rapidly-progressive scarring of the lungs. It is the hope that the new researchers will impact the enhancement of lung imaging techniques that could help identify the specific radiographic changes that are seen in people with Libby amphibole asbestos-related diseases.
Specific populations including children who were exposed and later moved out of town as well as individuals who have had an environmental exposure unrelated to the mining in Libby are being studied. These groups are then compared to individuals in Mount Sinai that have a history of being heavily exposed to chrysotile asbestos. Baseline scans will be completed and then repeated in several years. The team will try to determine why those with an amphibole exposure have an accelerated progression of their disease and if there are any interventions that may slow or prevent the scarring from occurring. The researchers hope that their findings will benefit mesothelioma victims with improved diagnostic tests that could detect asbestos-related diseases such as mesothelioma earlier.
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