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Mesothelioma and Lung Cancer News - Return to Menu

Mesothelioma and Asbestos Information
by Stuart Brown - Editor - FirstScience.com

Mesothelioma Cancer and asbestos are subjects that were back in the news this week as a Mesothelioma summit was held at the British Medical Association in London on the 9th March to bring together the various interested organisations. In a bid to pool expertise in the area, and to try to draw up some kind of action plan for how coverage of the disease can be highlighted.

Mesothelioma is a rare form of cancer in which malignant (cancerous) cells are found in the mesothelium, a protective sac that covers most of the body's internal organs. Most people who develop mesothelioma cancer have worked on jobs where they inhaled asbestos particles. A history of asbestos exposure at work is reported in about 70 percent to 80 percent of all cases. However, mesothelioma has been reported in some individuals without any known exposure to asbestos.

Asbestos is the name of a group of minerals that occur naturally as masses of strong, flexible fibers that can be separated into thin threads and woven. They are also highly heat resistant. Because of these characteristics, asbestos has been used for a wide range of manufactured goods, mostly in building materials (roofing shingles, ceiling and floor tiles, paper products, and asbestos cement products), friction products (automobile clutch, brake, and transmission parts), heat-resistant fabrics, packaging, gaskets, and coatings. Because of their durability once the fibers get into lung tissue they will remain for long periods of time.

Mesothelioma cancer is a highly controversial subject and if you do a search on google for mesothelioma lawyers, you will see that there is a whole hornets nest of activity that surrounds it. Not least because the legal cases that the cancer engenders can literally be worth millions in compensation payments. UK insurers, which have already paid around £1.5 billion in UK-based claims for asbestos-related diseases, face £4bn to £10bn in costs from asbestos claims over the next three decades, the UK’s actuarial profession said last year. And the costs in the US are much greater because of the typically higher damage payments.

Malignant mesothelioma

And yet if you get beyond the legalities and lawyers scenting fat fees; mesothelioma is a cancer that demands attention in its own right.

About 1800 people in Great Britain die each year from mesothelioma and asbestos related lung cancer as a result of past exposure to asbestos. It affects over 2000 people every year in the United States (estimates vary) and over 15,000 worldwide. And is especially insidious because the main cause, asbestos, can have the effect of causing the cancer 30 or 40 years down the track. And yet despite what you might believe, asbestos is not actually banned in the United States.

In 1989 Congress passed legislation to ban asbestos under the 1976 'Control of Substances Act'. But in 1991 the 5th Circuit Judge Court of Appeals in New Orleans overturned this decision. The administration at the time chose not to appeal this decision to the Supreme Court. And as a result whilst new uses of asbestos were banned, existing uses of asbestos were not. This remains the case today. So it is still found in more than 3,000 products, including brake linings, engine gaskets and roof coatings, and is still present as insulation in older buildings.

( You can visit the following link to read more detailed information about what asbestos products are banned and those that are not at the US Governments Environmental Protection Agency website and here for another pdf which goes into detail on the area.)

Asbestos has been mined and used commercially since the late 1800s. Its use greatly increased during World War II. Since the early 1940s, millions of workers have been exposed to asbestos dust. The risk of asbestos-related disease increases with heavier exposure to asbestos and longer exposure time. However, some individuals with only brief exposures have developed mesothelioma. Because mesothelioma is very hard to control, the National Cancer Institute (NCI) in the United States is currently sponsoring clinical trials (research studies with people) that are designed to find new treatments and better ways to use current treatments. You can find more information here

The number of deaths annually from mesothelioma has been increasing steadily since the 1960s in both the UK and US. This can be accounted for because the disease can take years to develop after initial exposure to the main cause, asbestos, which was heavily used in both countrys in the twenty years following World War 2. And this increasing trend is expected to continue for at least the next ten years. With this rise in the incidence of the disease the British Lung Foundation co-ordinated the Mesothelioma Summit on the 9th March 2005 which looked at ways to improve the treatment and care of existing patients, and to raise the profile of the disease to secure much needed funding to explore ways of treating it.

To find out more information about Mesothelioma and Asbestos you can visit these sites:

UK - http://www.mesothelioma.uk.com/
US - (Mesothelioma FAQs) - http://cis.nci.nih.gov/fact/6_36.htm
FAQs About Asbestos - http://www.atsdr.cdc.gov/tfacts61.html


Lilly pledges $12.5 million to further cancer research

By Jeff Swiatek
jeff.swiatek@indystar.com
April 13, 2005 - Eli Lilly and Co. has pledged a follow-up donation of $12.5 million over the next five years to the Damon Runyon Cancer Research Foundation.

The newest grant, to be announced today, comes on the heels of a $15 million, five-year grant Lilly made in 2000 to the same New York foundation.

The money supports a foundation program to promote cancer research by giving $1 million grants each year to five young cancer researchers.

With the grants, Lilly is trying to reverse a slow slide in cancer research in the United States, where the number of physicians engaged in clinical research has dropped by 50 percent over the past two decades, said Lilly spokesman Gregory L. Clarke.

"We're left facing a tremendous gap in the development of future researchers who can find answers for patients who desperately need them," said Dale F. Frey, chairman of the foundation, in a statement.

The grant comes with no strings attached to benefit Lilly, Clarke said. Lilly doesn't receive first rights to any breakthroughs discovered by award recipients, and it doesn't dictate the research projects, he said.

"Lilly's $27.5 million donation . . . sends an important message to young clinical researchers that providing answers to waiting patients is the first order of business," Frey said.

The Indianapolis drugmaker sells two cancer drugs: Gemzar for pancreatic cancer and Alimta for lung cancer.

Named for a short-story writer who was prominent in the early 1900s, the foundation currently is funding 190 cancer investigators.

Call Star reporter Jeff Swiatek at (317) 444-6483.


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