Mesothelioma Archives - AAH UK



Clinical Trial for Tazemetostat Launches

The latest mesothelioma drug to be granted a clinical trial is tazemetostat, a protein inhibitor which has already shown positive signs in treating non-Hodgkin lymphoma.

It’s been described using a ‘lock and key metaphor’ by Dr Marianna Koczywas, a thoracic oncologist from the US who says: “You have a specific [cancer] key, and a specific keyhole it goes through. If you can lock that keyhole, you can lock it out.

“These malignant cells rely on a pathway for growth and division so you try and block that specific pathway.”

The drug is currently being tested in a phase II trial at centres here in the UK as well as in France and the US.

Dr Koczywas said: “We’re opening this trial because we believe it is promising. We still have very limited options for patients with mesothelioma and welcome any therapy with potential to benefit the patients, prolong life and provide better quality of life. We think this drug can do that.”

How effective is it?

The drug has already been successfully used in the treatment of other diseases, including non-Hodgkin lymphoma, synovial sarcoma and some genetically defined tumours, all of which use a similar pathway to tumour cell proliferation.

Studies have previously shown that 60% of mesothelioma cases show a mutation of BAP1, a tumour suppressor gene which tazemetostat has effectiveness for with other cancers.

Research has shown that those who lack the BAP1 protein are much more likely to develop mesothelioma, but this drug could give them a better chance of survival when used in conjunction with other forms of therapy.

Koczywas continued: “Having this type of personalized and targeted therapy for patients is the way of the future.

“You will see a higher response rate and a longer benefit by designing very specific, targeted therapies. We can select patients better today.”

The drug is produced by a biopharmaceutical company by the name of Epizyme Inc.

Their president and CEO Robert Bazemore has suggested that the drug could even be used to treat other types of cancer.

He said: “We believe that tazemetostat has the potential to treat multiple types of cancer in patients who have limited treatment options.

“We are moving quickly to expand the tazemetostat clinical program into mesothelioma.”

Tazemetostat is currently being promoted as a second-line therapy, for those who have already undergone chemotherapy but have relapsed, and would be used in combination with surgery, radiation and chemotherapy.

The trial is expected to run until September of 2018, and can hopefully offer mesothelioma patients a new form of treatment in the future.

Dr Koczywas concluded by saying: “Cancer types that rely on this pathway seem to be responding to the drug.

“This therapy should be appealing to patients who have very few options. Participating in clinical trials is crucial to advancing cancer treatment in general, and maybe moving us closer to a cure.”

For all the latest news relating to asbestos-related diseases and clinical trials involving drugs which might be used to treat them make sure to keep checking our news page here at Asbestos Advice Helpline.

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New Drug for Mesothelioma Discovered in Sea Squirt

A drug which has been discovered in Caribbean sea squirts could be effective in stunting the growth of mesothelioma tumour cells.

Research which has been carried out at the Medical University of Vienna found that a toxin by the name of trabectedin, which the creature uses to defend itself against predators, could be used in the treatment of the asbestos-related disease.

Walter Berger who led the study at the university’s Institute of Cancer Research said: “It has looked very promising to this point. It’s a fascinating new substance — from its origins to its mode of action.”

The bottom-dwelling coral-like organism has been harvested by a European pharmaceutical company and had its toxin extracted to produce this new drug.

The study was published earlier this month in the Molecular Cancer Therapeutics journal and focused on the development of novel strategies for therapy-refractory cancer such as mesothelioma and other lung cancers.

In the mesothelioma trial, trabectedin effectively served as a chemotherapy-like agent which targeted DNA and delivered an immune response and also showed great synergy when combined with cisplatin, which is the form of chemotherapy which is currently used as standard.

Dr Berger said: “We found excellent activity, compared to many drugs that have been tried. Mesothelioma, as you know, is very difficult to treat. This was encouraging.”

In the preclinical study, the researchers tested trabectedin on 13 mesothelioma surgical specimens, six mesothelioma cell lines and two nonmalignant pleural tissue samples.

The drug prompted a dose-dependent cytotoxic effect on all mesothelioma cell cultures on all of the mesothelioma cell cultures but lesser effect on the nonmalignant ones.

However, it generated a much better response when combined with cisplatin, before being combined with a group of proteins that regulate cell death by inducing apoptosis.

The research particularly showed an impressive response with the sarcomatoid cell type of mesothelioma, the least common of the cell types and one of the most resistant to current therapies.

Doctors in Europe and Japan are also administering another version of the drug, known as lurbinectedin in combination with other chemotherapy drugs to attempt to treat inoperable ovarian cancer.

In an earlier study in the Lung Cancer journal, Swiss researchers found that lurbinectedin effectively reduced tumour size and also limited the side effects of chemotherapy which can often be severe.

Five sites in Italy are currently conducting the only clinical trial involving trabectedin and mesothelioma, where the early results are promising.

For all the latest news on trials surrounding mesothelioma treatments and drugs, make sure to keep checking our news page here at Asbestos Advice Helpline.

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New Combination Of Drugs May Improve Mesothelioma Survival

As scientists search far and wide for new ways to effectively treat mesothelioma, a promising combination seems to have emerged from the least likely of places.

A drug which has been derived from the eggs of leopard frogs has shown promising signs when administered with dihydroartemisinin, a malaria drug better known as DHA.

This comes from a Chinese report which has claimed that the combination could have anti-tumour effects on non-small cell lung cancer which hasn’t been seen in more conventional cancer drugs.

What is it?

The drug in question is called Onconase (also known as Ranpirnase) and is a cytotoxic enzyme which is found in the stem cells of the leopard frog eggs and early embryos.

It may sound strange but studies have shown that the drug can help to shrink mesothelioma tumours by attaching itself to specific receptors which are only found on the cancerous cells.

While DHA is primarily a malaria drug, it is also known to exhibit antitumour and antivirus properties.

How could it be used to treat mesothelioma?

The study was undertaken by researchers at the Tongji University in Shanghai who wanted to see if DHA could enhance the effectiveness of Onconase.

To test their hypothesis, the scientists applied the new combination to mesothelioma cells in the lab.

This resulted in a ‘synergistic effect’, which is where the two drugs have a greater effect than they would do when both used individually.

This prompted the team to move their testing onto live mice, where the combination produced a similar effect, disrupting the cancer cells’ ability to form blood vessels to feed the growing tumour (known as angiogenesis).

Dr Ruling Shen, who was part of the study said: “These results imply that the anti-angiogenesis effects may make important contributions to the in vivo antitumor effects of the Onc/DHA combination treatment.”

A potential novel treatment?

The usual approach of using chemotherapy to treat mesothelioma uses a combination of pemetrexed (Alimta) and a platinum-based drug such as cisplatin.

This is widely accepted among doctors as the best form of first-line treatment, although its effects are usually marginal and only extends patients’ survival from the disease by a few months.

This is why so much research is going into finding new forms of drug to better treat the disease and ultimately improve survival rates.

The signs from this study are certainly promising, with the report concluding that: “The Onc/DHA combination therapy may have the potential to become a novel regimen for NSCLC and mesothelioma.”

For all the latest news on trials surrounding mesothelioma treatments and drugs, make sure to keep checking our news page here at Asbestos Advice Helpline.

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Study Shows Advances Mesothelioma Diagnosis Using Thoracoscopy

Thoracoscopy is a procedure which is used to diagnose and then treat pleural diseases such as mesothelioma.

In a recently published study, the procedure has shown to provide the necessary information needed to make a mesothelioma diagnosis in around 80 percent of patients, that’s a rise of 20% in the last three decades.

The research was carried out by a group of Italian pulmonary medicine experts who said that the procedure sometimes also referred to as ‘pleuroscopy’, has steadily improved as doctors have become more adept at using it to target and diagnosed mesothelioma.

Difficulties in Mesothelioma Diagnosis

Pleural mesothelioma is a cancer which develops on the membrane that surrounds the lungs. It is well known for being particularly difficult to diagnose.

The reason for this is because many of its common symptoms are shared with a number of other diseases. Things like coughs, shortness of breath, chest pain and fatigue are shared by a number of lung related illnesses.

The only way to accurately pinpoint and diagnose mesothelioma is by examining its cells under a microscope.

The difficulty in discovering mesothelioma can lead to misdiagnosis and mistreatment which are unfortunate reasons why the outlook of mesothelioma is worse than many other cancers.

Diagnosis is made even more difficult because mesothelioma tumours are notoriously challenging to find to even take a piece of tissue to examine to begin with.

However, thoracoscopy utilises a specifically designed camera, known as a thoracoscope, to allow a surgeon inside the chest of a patient and can improve mesothelioma diagnosis because they can then actively take a piece of tumour tissue for examination.

The Study

The Italian study, which was published on 6th August 2016 in the Annals of Thoracic Medicine examined trends in the use of this procedure in those with mesothelioma or other thoracic diseases.

2,752 patients who had received a medical thoracoscopy from 1984 to 2013 at the Spedali Civili Hospital Brescia in Italy were included in the study.

Over half of the patients were diagnosed with pleural mesothelioma or another lung cancer. Among the other 50 percent, tuberculosis was the most common non-cancerous illness.

The research team concluded that the likelihood of medical thoracoscopy providing the information to accurately diagnose lung diseases like mesothelioma increased from 57 percent to nearly 80 percent over the course of the 29-year study period.

Speaking at the study’s conclusion, Dr Alberto Valsecchi said, “Medical thoracoscopy has a great diagnostic yield that can be improved by practice permitting to achieve a specific histological diagnosis in about 80 percent of patients.”

He also said that the research team had found that careful patient selection is vital in acquiring the best possible results. Patients with mesothelioma, who had pleural effusion or excessive lung fluid had a higher diagnostic yield than those without.

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Where Can Carers & Family Members Turn for Support Following a Mesothelioma Diagnosis

While being diagnosed with mesothelioma is incredibly tough for the person involved, it also has a huge impact upon their family members, especially if they’re going to be caring for them through their illness.

Caring for someone with mesothelioma is hard work, and it’s understandable that you might need help or support.

Here are a couple of the organisations which you can turn to if you are a carer or family member of someone who has been diagnosed with mesothelioma.

Mesothelioma UK

Mesothelioma UK is one of the main UK charities which deal specifically with mesothelioma.

This mean that they can provide you with information, support and education which is specific to your family’s case.

They also have a team of specialist nurses who are trained in working with mesothelioma patients, who are based in regional NHS hospitals.

They can also aid you and your loved one in claiming for any benefits which they might be entitled to.

They also have a list of local support groups for patients and their carers which you can see here.

MacMillan Cancer Support

MacMillan is one of the biggest cancer charities in the country and does excellent work with people who are suffering from all forms of the disease.

They’re a great resource for information regarding cancer, with resources on everything from how to manage symptoms and side effects, to practical issues such as money, work and travel.

They also offer a range of training courses to help you learn how best to support your loved one.


CarersUK is an organisation set up specifically to help those who are looking after those who are seriously ill.

They’re particularly helpful when it comes to the more complicated side of being a carer, things such as the paperwork surrounding rights and entitlement.

They have a free advice helpline which is available five days a week on 0808 808 7777, where they’re happy to give you advice on everything, whether it be form filling or just coping with emotions.

They also have a strong online community of carers where you can share your experiences of being a carer with others from around the country and a team of local ambassadors who work to put local carers in touch with one another.

Carers UK is also at the forefront of campaigning for more help for carers and achieving new rights.

Carer’s Trust

The Carer’s Trust is another organisation specifically for carers and have a UK-wide network of partner services to support them.

They also have an extensive network of support specifically for young carers, who face a whole set of unique challenges.

They provide emotional and practical support, as well as offering to provide care so that you can take a well-earned break at times.

If you are a carer of someone who is suffering from mesothelioma and they haven’t yet sought compensation, be sure to give us a call for free here at Asbestos Advice Helpline for advice and support and to talk through your options.

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5 Reasons To Consider Enrolling In A Clinical Trial For Mesothelioma Treatment

Unfortunately, there are many diseases which are treatable but not entirely curable, mesothelioma is one of them.

When you are diagnosed with or begin treatment for one of these diseases, you may be asked to consider taking part in a medical trial alongside treatment.

Medical trials are research studies that explore a particular disease. They look to discover whether a new method of treatment is remotely safe, effective and most importantly better than previous ones.

So, if you or a close friend or family member has been diagnosed with mesothelioma, here’s 5 reasons to consider enrolling in a clinical trial.

New Treatments

Although the new treatments you will receive will largely be untested, they could prove to be incredibly successful. The majority of clinical trials involving mesothelioma aren’t too radical, so they involve current treatments mixed with the new ones.

What this means is you will still receive the standard level of care you’d have received anyway, but with extra, potentially successful added treatments.

Just take a look at this trial which we featured in our news section, which improved the quality of life of those treated.

With the right trial and the right circumstances, you could find yourself receiving life -changing treatments which aren’t available anywhere else.

Leading Healthcare

For many healthcare professionals, trying to further medicine by being part of a research trial is one of the pinnacles of the profession.

Because of this, the doctors, physicians and specialists serving on clinical trials tend to be the best of the best. On top of this, trials often take place in the top medical centres.

Not only will you have top quality treatment, there’s also a good chance it will be free. Because trials run on volunteers, they are mostly free.

Taking Control

No matter the illness, when visiting the doctor for your next treatment, it’s understandable to feel a little helpless. We simply trust in the doctor and do whatever they ask.

However, choosing to take part in a trial means you take more control of your own care. It is our very nature to look after ourselves as best we can, so it makes complete sense to want to search for the best possible treatments.

Follow-Up Treatments

If you take part in a particularly successful trial, as a participant, you would be among the first people to receive any follow-up treatments.

This could be potentially life changing and will also mean you receive these treatments for free.

Helping Future Generations

Clinical trials, above all else, are about furthering and developing treatments so that in the future we will be better equipped to treat people who fall ill.

One of the reasons you might consider taking part in a mesothelioma trial is that regardless of whether you personally gain from it or not, you know future generations will.

If you are interested in a mesothelioma based clinical trial, you can take a look at all of those available in the UK via the NHS website, simply follow this link.

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New Mesothelioma Research Reveals Promising New Therapeutic Option

Pleural mesothelioma is a rare yet very deadly form of cancer caused by the exposure or inhalation of asbestos fibres. The cancer is particularly fatal due to the reason that it is resistant to standard cancer treatments, such as chemotherapy.

Whilst this form of cancer is more uncommon, unfortunately, cases of individuals diagnosed with mesothelioma are on the rise across some areas.

However, a new study conducted by researchers in Italy has potentially revealed a new therapeutic option which could potentially help individuals with malignant pleural mesothelioma.

This promising new therapy refers to a drug called trabectedin. In 2015, this particular drug received FDA approval for advanced sarcomas as well as ovarian cancer, yet it has now been suggested that when used in combination with a series of administered drugs, trabectedin could help to treat patients suffering from mesothelioma cancer.   

Testing Trabectedin

Scientists from the Institute of Cancer Research at the University of Vienna tested the drug on both malignant and healthy cells, as well as on mesothelioma surgical samples. 

The author of the study, Mir Alireza Hoda was quoted in Benzinga’s article saying that “Trabectedin exerted a dose-dependent cytotoxic effect in all malignant pleural mesothelioma cell cultures in vitro…,”. The author goes on to reveal that “Non-malignant mesothelial cells were significantly less responsive.”

How Does The Drug Combat Mesothelioma?

The researchers of the study explained that trabectedin helped to battle the cancer by affecting cellular expression bcl-2. Bcl-2 is a group of proteins helping to regulate apoptosis (cell death) by causing or preventing cell death.

During the investigation as the dose of trabectedin increased, the treated cancerous cells decreased.

The results of the study also saw that trabectedin was regarded as being more effective at fighting mesothelioma when it was managed with drugs which can affect cells death or when administered with cisplatin, a drug used in chemotherapy treatment.

Another element of the study included the testing of the drug on peritoneal mesothelioma tumours from mice. It was revealed that the testing of trabectedin on the tumour revealed “significant antitumor activity”.


The study assessing the effectiveness of trabectedin has certainly displayed some very interesting, important and positive results in terms of being to help treat mesothelioma cancer.

As we mentioned at the beginning of the article, as the options for effectively treating patients with mesothelioma are so limited, the results of the study have been both beneficial and promising in terms of a potential future course of treatment.

For the time being, though, trabectedin will have to undergo a lot more research and examination as it perhaps moves towards being used in mesothelioma clinical trials. 

Here at Asbestos Advice Helpline, we strive to keep you updated with the most current news and updates surrounding mesothelioma, so make sure to head to our News Tab to find out more. Should you or someone you know require assistance concerning an asbestos-related disease, then please contact us here.

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The Most Common Complications of Mesothelioma Surgery

While we’re always on the lookout for new experimental treatments and drugs for mesothelioma, on our news page, surgery and chemotherapy remain the primary treatment methods (often in combination).

Surgery is used to try and remove the tumour itself, or just to reduce pain and symptoms.

Undergoing surgery can make mesothelioma patients and their families anxious, due to potential issues that could crop up during or after the operation.

While the chance of any of these complications occurring is very low, it’s important to know about them if you or a family member is going to be undergoing surgery.

Respiratory failure

Respiratory failure occurs when the lungs are not functioning properly and cannot provide enough oxygen to the rest of the body.

This could occur for a number of reasons and may mean that the patient struggles for breath and experiences chest discomfort.

This is usually treated with oxygen therapy and medication to help support the patient’s breathing.

Blood Clots

Blood clots can occur during any kind of surgery, although those undergoing mesothelioma treatment are more at risk because they are bed-bound for long periods of time.

Blood clots in the legs (known as deep vein thrombosis) can lead to the calves becoming swollen and painful.

This can usually be treated fairly easily with medication if it is caught early on, but if not it could lead to a pulmonary embolism.

This is where the clot breaks off from the vessel in the leg and travels up to the lungs, which is obviously much more serious.

This could cause symptoms such as difficulty breathing and coughing up blood.

To prevent blood clots from happening, patients are usually given blood thinners and compression stockings.

There are also various exercises you can perform to prevent clots from forming.


Pneumonia can sometimes occur after surgery and causes the patient to suffer from a high temperature, shortness of breath and a cough.

It is usually treated with a course of antibiotics, extra oxygen and chest physiotherapy.

Fluid Build-Up

After surgery, excess fluid may start to build up around the lungs. This can then lead to chest pain, shortness of breath and general fatigue.

This can, of course, be very dangerous, so doctors may use a small tube known as a chest drain to help drain the excess fluid.

What are the risks?

While it’s important to be aware of these risks, it’s also important to know that doctors and nurses do everything in their power to prevent them from happening.

For example, in the period following an operation, they will ask the patient to undergo deep breathing exercises and get out of bed to help improve their circulation as well as prescribe medication to help ward off any complications.

If you are at all worried about surgery, make sure to sit down with your doctor to discuss any worries and bring along a friend or family member so that everybody is aware of the risks, and what the doctors are doing to minimise them.

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BAP1 Protein Helps For More Accurate Mesothelioma Diagnosis

New research has identified another tool which can help doctors diagnose pleural mesothelioma, a form of lung cancer caused by long term exposure to asbestos.

A team of mesothelioma specialist at the University of Hawaii Cancer Centre, lead by DR Michele Carbone, discovered that a tumour-suppressing protein called BAP1 can help oncologists clearly and accurately differentiate between mesothelioma from lung cancer.

The Study

The study found that people lacking in the BAP1 protein are more likely to develop malignant mesothelioma.

During the research team’s study, all of the 45 non-small cell lung cancer samples tested positive for normal BAP1, whereas more than half of the 35 pleural mesothelioma samples which were tested showed a distinct lack of BAP1.

Following the test, Dr Carbone said, “Now we have an additional tool that we can use to increase the accuracy of a diagnosis. The fact is today there is a high rate of misdiagnosis and there are many reasons for that. We need to use this tool to help get it right.”

The research team brought together many of the top specialists in the field, as the team included a number of doctors and researchers from both New York’s Langone Medical Centre and the Queens Medical Centre, Honolulu.

Their study was published in Oncotarget on 18th July. Oncotarget is a multidisciplinary medical journal. You can read the study here.     


All over the world, misdiagnosis of mesothelioma has been a growing concern for cancer patients and specialists. Mesothelioma is often misdiagnosed because it carries a number of similarities to lung cancer.

Ultimately, this often means too much time is wasted performing the wrong treatments and by the time the actual problem is diagnosed it has developed.

“We still don’t know for sure how many cases are being misdiagnosed in the United States, but 10 percent is a safe bet,” Dr Carbone said.

“That means there are lots of people not receiving the proper treatment. It’s important to increase the accuracy of the diagnostic process because the last thing you want as a patient is to be treated for the wrong disease.”

In comparison, there are over 45,000 cases of lung cancer diagnosed each year in the UK (according to Cancer Research UK). Despite diseases being focused on the lungs, the correct treatment for mesothelioma is very different from the treatment for lung cancer.

Pleural mesothelioma is a particularly rare and aggressive form of cancer which starts in the thin membrane that surrounds the thoracic cavity. There are just over 2,600 cases of mesothelioma diagnosed each year in the UK, so clearly many oncologists fail to see the disease.

Why Patients Are Misdiagnosed

The inability to diagnose mesothelioma in its early stages is one of the reasons why prognosis is often poor in comparison to other cancers. The three main reasons for misdiagnosis are:

  • Doctor inexperienced in mesothelioma
  • Misguided needle biopsy
  • Inadequate specimen

If the process of searching for BAP1 is implemented across the board in cancer centres, it will almost certainly improve diagnosis for mesothelioma, halting so many cases which waste precious time treating a lung cancer, which isn’t even present.

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Mesothelioma Surgery Could Still Benefit Older Patients

According to recent analysis, older patients suffering from pleural mesothelioma could almost double their chances of survival by undergoing aggressive surgery.

It aims to debunk the myth that age is a barrier to surgery and show that nobody is too old to benefit from mesothelioma surgery.

Thoracic surgeon Dr Mark Berry from the Stanford University Medical Center said: “More and more, we’ve come to realise that age is just a number.

“Some patients at 75 are great candidates for surgery, and some younger than 55 are not so great. Age alone should not deter these patients from surgery.”

Berry was part of the team of surgeons and oncologists who looked into the Surveillance, Epidemiology and End Results (SEER) database in the US and analysed 879 pleural mesothelioma patients, with the hope of determining exactly how age impacts the potential benefits of surgery.

Their findings were published in the latest issue of Clinical Lung Cancer and Berry went on to say: “The thing that surprised me a little was the magnitude of the benefit of surgery was kind of similar with the older group and the younger group.

“The midterm survival for the older group that had surgery almost doubled. I don’t know if I would have expected that much improvement.”

The issue of age is all the more important when it comes to mesothelioma, as it is usually diagnosed in those who have recently retired after years of asbestos exposure.

In fact, the period between initial exposure and appearance of symptoms is usually as much as 48 years for men or 53 for women, meaning most are at least 65 by the time they are diagnosed.

These new findings support earlier findings from the University of Chicago Medical Center.

Back in 2015, Dr Wickii Vigneswaran said: “There has always been this tendency to say ‘He’s a little too old for surgery.’, but the fact is, if you’re fit enough, regardless of age, you can benefit.”

This was backed up by the SEER analysis, which found that surgery was generally associated with better survival compared with nonsurgical treatment methods.

One-year survival was 63% for those who opted for surgery, and 44% for those who did not, while the three and five-year survival rates were 21 and 11% and 8 and 3% respectively.

And for those who opted not to receive surgery, 30-day mortality was 11.7%, compared to 4.3% for those who did.

While it’s great to see that older patients can still benefit from surgery, it’s always important to stress a multidisciplinary approach, to decide if surgery is the right option for each individual.

As Dr Berry said: “I think progress is being made [with mesothelioma], although we haven’t come up with anything that dramatically alters the outcomes.”

“We’ve done a better job of picking the right treatment plan for each individual and selecting which patient will benefit from which treatment. We are doing better.”

Make sure to keep checking our news feed here at Asbestos Advice Helpline for all the latest on new treatments and trials regarding asbestos-related diseases.

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