Today, there is much improved asbestos awareness by those individuals who know they were exposed to asbestos fibres in the workplace and may have possibly already fallen victim to an asbestosis disease.

In the quest to find improved asbestosis treatments for the fatal and incurable malignant pleural mesothelioma, medical researchers will often try to apply the findings from work conducted with treating other types of cancer.

Current research into a new type of drug, which enables the body’s immune system to attack lung cancer tumours may be a vital new treatment in a bid to overcome mesothelioma.

It is now much better understood that there is a long gestation period of up to 50 years or more before asbestosis symptoms appear, which can inevitably make it extremely difficult for a victim to recognise the early signs.

It is not unusual for elderly victims to simply imagine they are suffering a common ailment, such as bronchitis, pneumonia, or respiratory disease. If there has also been a long history of cigarette smoking, the appearance of a symptom such as pleural effusion may also not be recognised as an early symptom of mesothelioma.

A further complication suggested by previous research is the potential for developing lung cancer can increase up to four per cent each year a victim was exposed to asbestos. Studies have found that the risk from lung cancer risk can double after 25 cumulative years of asbestos exposure, while falling significantly 35 to 40 years after first exposure.

As a result, there can be much confusion over recognising and understanding the distinct differences between lung cancer and malignant pleural mesothelioma, including methods of treatment and their response to different therapies.

Protein compounds

In the latest medical research into immunotherapy, protein compounds which have shown they can effectively overcome a tumour’s ability to evade the body’s defence system, are being suggested can also work for attacking mesothelioma cancer cells.

A control study group of 300 patients suffering with five different types of advanced cancers, received a targeted protein compound antibody drug treatment every two weeks. Response rates differed but it was found that tumour shrinkage was between 18-28 per cent, the most effective response being from those patients suffering a melanoma and kidney cancer, many whom continued to show a positive response for more than a year.

As with all new research, more trials will be necessary and further work to be conducted. While mesothelioma cancer accounts for less than 1 per cent of all cancers diagnosed in the UK, incidence of the disease has increased almost four-fold since the early 1980s.

However, for the 2,400 people who continue to be diagnosed with mesothelioma in the UK every year, the possibilities for extending life expectancy and eventually overcoming the disease are better than ever before as advanced research continues to uncover crucial breakthroughs in cancer treatment.