Paul Gleason

Best known for his sardonic performances in movies like The Breakfast Club, Trading Places and Van Wilder, Paul Gleason was more than just an actor; he was an athlete, poet, husband and father. After a long and courageous battle against malignant pleural mesothelioma, Mr. Gleason finally succumbed to the rare asbestos cancer on May 29, 2006 — he was 67.

Malignant mesothelioma is a relatively rare type of cancer that affects the mesothelial cells that make up a tissue lining that lubricates and protects three of the body's largest cavities: the chest cavity (the pleura), the abdominal cavity (the peritoneum) and the heart sac (pericardium). The only known cause of the fatal disease is exposure to a hazardous mineral group called asbestos.

Before Mr. Gleason decided to pursue a career on the big screen, he had aspirations of becoming a Major League Baseball star. He starred for years in the minor leagues before happening upon the film that would change the course of his life: 1961's Splendour in the Grass. It was to be the start of an illustrious 40 years in Hollywood starring in film and television of all genres.

Little is known about how and when Mr. Gleason might have come into contact with asbestos and exactly how much exposure caused him to develop malignant pleural mesothelioma. It is known that mesothelioma is a latent asbestos disease that can take anywhere from 30- to 40-years to fully develop and become symptomatic. As such, Mr. Gleason's development of pleural mesothelioma could be attributed to some type of asbestos exposure the actor faced as a young man between the ages of 25 and 35 (mesothelioma is typically fatal within one to two years after the onset of symptoms).

Paul Gleason's death at the hands of malignant pleural mesothelioma further underscores the need for additional mesothelioma research and the development of new mesothelioma treatment modalities. Thus far, mesothelioma has proven to be an incurable disease when treated using traditional cancer therapies. It is believed that additional research and study could yield a breakthrough in the treatment of malignant mesothelioma.

Paul Gleason is survived by his loving wife and his two daughters. He was truly loved and will be missed.


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