Key Developments in the Use of Genomics in Mesothelioma Cases: Causal Role of BAP1 Null (Loss of Function) Mutations in Mesothelioma and Key Legal Findings

ToxicoGenomica recently presented a webinar organized by Perrin Conferences and the slides are now available for download. The title of the session was Key Developments: Genomics in Mesothelioma Cases. The webinar focused on the latest cases, the most recent science and publications, and the evolving applications and cost of deployment of the science of genomics to understanding the causes of cancer. A summary of the webinar slides is presented below and to download a complimentary copy of the slides, please complete the form at the bottom of this page.

Causal Role of BAP1 Null (Loss of Function) Mutations in Mesothelioma

The scientific portions of the presentation were covered by Len van Zyl, Ph.D, and CEO of ArrayXpress. The slides explain some of the powerful mechanistic genomic evidence showing how and why a subset of genetic mutations (BAP1 null [loss of function] mutations) do in fact cause some mesotheliomas, without involvement of asbestos. Other slides by Dr. van Zyl focus on an important Carbone 2022 article stating that mesotheliomas and other cancers arise in approximately 100% of persons who carry BAP1 null (loss of function) germline (inherited) mutations in one gene. Time and study will certainly continue to reveal more genomic drivers that cause mesotheliomas, regardless of asbestos. 

Accessing and Using Genomics in Toxic Torts

Other genomic-focused slides were presented by Michael Zapata, a long-time colleague of Dr. van Zyl at ArrayXpress, a spin-off business from North Carolina State University. Mr. Zapata presented both broad and specific insights into accessing and using genomic data in the context of a broad range of personal injury cases where causation is at issue.

Key Legal Findings Related to Toxic Tort Cases Involving Genomics

Kirk Hartley presented on the law aspects. Some of his slides addressed a very recent federal ruling on whether retained expert witnesses can refuse to answer questions about persons who were the subject of a “scientific” article purporting to assess exposure and causation. More specifically, the issues in one case (Bell) arose because one of the experts (Dr. Moline) wrote an article based solely on data obtained through litigation consulting. Thus, physician/client confidentiality cannot exist. Nonetheless, Dr. Moline was (and still is) claiming that she is barred from answering questions about any of the 33 people because of the federal common rule that applies for federally funded research, self-imposed IRB rules, HIPPA etc. A federal district in North Carolina recently rejected the arguments and issued a strong opinion that is now final and was not appealed.

Mr. Hartley also addressed legal rulings on other relevant topics. For example, some slides focus on a March 2022 Alameda ruling holding that defendants have presented sufficient expert evidence that genomic abnormalities alone can cause some mesotheliomas.

Additional slides focus on the importance of the Carbone 2022 article stating that mesotheliomas and other cancers will arise in approximately 100% of persons who carry “BAP1 null” germline (inherited) mutations in one BAP1 gene. One specific slide points to BAP1 null (loss of function) mutations identified in genetic sequencing reports that were ordered by treating doctors and surfaced in four recent mesothelioma lawsuits in Alameda. Other slides focus on the impact of recent testimony where prominent experts called by plaintiffs have admitted that some mesotheliomas can and do arise solely from genomic abnormalities.

Kirk also presented slides that provide comments and links to recent short-sighted anti-science rulings in mesothelioma cases in Alameda County (California). In brief, in many instances, the orders purport to ban defense side litigation consultants/retained experts from writing anonymized articles about facts they learn during the course of litigation. The rulings are based mainly on incorrect assumptions and misunderstandings of: 1) The federal common rule that applies to federally funded scientific research, and 2) The role of and ubiquity of IRBs.

Additional slides go on to explain why all stakeholders need to understand the scope and possible impact of the vast amount of data that is intentionally excluded from virtually all reports that detail the findings of genetic sequencing.

Finally, the slides also provide descriptions of the consequences of a recent paper in which Dr. Testa and colleagues reported the results of whole genome sequencing of 14 persons with mesothelioma, and recent, related testimony by Dr. Testa. Overall, the specifics contradict prior testimony by Dr. Testa that was relied on by a trial judge who relied on his testimony as the basis for denying whole genome sequencing in a 2020 ruling in a Chicago case (Cowger). 


ToxicoGenomica is a multidisciplinary group of scientists and lawyers whose mission is to provide fully integrated services for using genomics and systems biology data in civil litigation. Members of the ToxicoGenomica team have been involved in delivering this type of information in toxic tort cases and are dedicated to accelerating the dissemination of information about the applications of genomics and systems biology to issues involving disease causation.


Please complete the form below to download a copy of the slide presentation.


Slides from Perrin Conferences Webinar December 2022 - Key Developments: Genomics in Mesothelioma Cases

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