An inquiry into the death of a UK man has revealed he suffered from mesothelioma, which he contracted on the job after being exposed to asbestos for only “two or three days,” 46 years ago. Coroner Edward Thomas declared Welwyn resident Roger Beale died of industrial disease as a result of the asbestos exposure. (more…)
Posts Tagged ‘UK’
Earlier this month, Chris Hahn, executive director of the Mesothelioma Applied Research Foundation (Meso Foundation) expressed his support for the recent announcement from the UK that it plans to not only endorse compensation for mesothelioma victims, but to promote research and treatment. In a news release, Hahn praised the U.K. for its recognition “that society’s obligation and moral responsibility to remedy the tragic legacy of decades of asbestos use requires funding research to develop effective medical treatments.” Then, he asked the all-important question: “Will the United States follow?”
Hahn’s praise and plea followed remarks by the U.K.’s Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice, Jack Straw, who has been outspoken about the government’s role in caring for workers harmed by asbestos on the job. Straw issued a statement Feb. 25, 2010, in response to an ongoing debate over the government’s decision on the question of compensation for pleural plaques.
Although pleural plaques, which are small areas of fibrosis in the pleura of the lung caused by asbestos exposure, indicate that a person has been exposed to asbestos, they generally do not cause any significant change in lung function. As a result, the Law Lords on Oct. 17, 2007 determined that people who have pleural plaques, but no other asbestos-caused illness, are not eligible for any compensation for medical treatment or other financial claims. The debate over pleural plaques sparked a national debate about asbestos disease.
Although subsequent research did not provide enough evidence to overturn the Law Lords’ ruling, it has provided significant information about asbestos disease, including mesothelioma and lung cancer. The government also is establishing a number of policies to make it easier for those who are diagnosed with mesothelioma or serious asbestos disease to receive compensation more quickly. Additionally, the research has encouraged the UK government to take a stronger stand on mesothelioma research and treatment.
According to Straw’s statement, “The fact that the UK has one of the highest rates of death from mesothelioma in the world is a legacy of our industrial heritage and the part that asbestos played in it. Just as the UK was a global leader in the asbestos industry, we must now become a global leader in research into asbestos-related disease.”
The government of the UK is calling for the creation of a National Centre for Asbestos-Related Disease, which will be a “collaborative network of funded researchers whose core purpose would be to advance medical research into the prevention, cure and alleviation of asbestos-related disease – primarily mesothelioma,” according to Straw. He said the insurance industry has pledged £3 million toward this research effort.
Benefits of such a concentrated and cooperative research and treatment program would not only benefit mesothelioma patients, but also would significantly reduce the costs of litigation, death and disability benefits, and health care costs, Hahn points out.
“This is exactly what the Mesothelioma Applied Research Foundation has been urging in the United States the past ten years,” Hahn says. “Mesothelioma and other asbestos-related diseases are a fundamental problem of social justice. And a just solution to that problem requires medical research to develop effective treatments to end the suffering and save lives. It is encouraging to see that the U.K. is getting it; we hope the U.S. will catch up soon.”
Read Hahn’s statement.
For more information, visit the Meso Foundation online at www.curemeso.org.
It has been a difficult year for many in the mesothelioma family. Many have lost loved ones, or are facing a scary diagnosis. But 2009 also held a lot of good news. To illustrate that, I’d like to share a news article about our great friend in the UK, Debbie Brewer. Just after Christmas, Debbie was featured on the front page of The Herald, a newspaper that covers the Plymouth area. The paper describes Plymouth as a “hotspot for asbestos-related deaths.”
In the feature, Debbie talks about how she moved from what was presented to her as a death sentence to her new outlook of happiness, hope and survival. Debbie was diagnosed in November 2006, at which time she thought she might be seeing her last Christmas. Doctors estimated she had only six to nine months to live.
As most of you know, Debbie refused to accept the prognosis that she had only months to live, instead actively seeking alternative medical treatments that might take a fresh look at her cancer and provide her with new options. Primarily, she found Prof. Thomas Vogl at the University Clinic in Frankfurt, Germany, who administers a therapy called chemoembolization. In this therapy, chemotherapy drugs are introduced directly to the tumor area through a catheter into the lung.
Because the treatment is still in clinical trial stages, Debbie had to travel to Germany for each treatment, not available in the UK, and paid for travel expenses and medical care from her own pocket. However, results were amazing, and Debbie’s tumor shrunk by more than 80 percent, putting her in full remission.
Despite a recent setback, when a September check-up showed cancer in her lymph node had increased in size (the tumor in her lung remains stable), she is optimistic. She lobbies energetically for mesothelioma and asbestos awareness, and also to bring chemoembolization to the UK so that more people might try this new therapy that has shown so much success in her case.
The paper quotes Debbie as saying, “Christmas is the time of year I celebrate being here. ”
We love you, Debbie, and we are SO glad to celebrate another Christmas with you, and we look forward to spending 2010 with you!
There is an ongoing debate in the United Kingdom about whether the country’s Labour department is responsible for compensating workers suffering from pleural plaques. In 2007, the Law Lords ruled that pleural plaques did not qualify for worker’s compensation. Pleural plaques are areas of fibrosis, or scar tissue caused by exposure to asbestos. They are usually found on the inside of the diaphragm.
A champion for the rights of workers who have developed pleural plaques as a result of exposure to asbestos in the workplace is Jarrow MP Stephen Hepburn. In a meeting at the House of Commons on Nov. 27, he argued the issue of pleural plaques is “immensely important” to workers and pensioners, and insisted it is the duty of members of both sides of the House to overturn the “disgraceful and unjust decision by the Law Lords to bar this terrible illness from classification as a designated illness for compensation purposes,” according to a report in The Chronicle.
Hepburn also told the Commons that pleural plaques sufferers are 1,000 times more likely to develop a more serious form of asbestos-related cancer. Mesothelioma is a deadly form of cancer that affects the lining of the chest cavity and lungs (pleural) or the lining of the stomach (peritoneal). It may also rarely affect the lining of the heart (pericardial). There is no known cure for mesothelioma.
During the heated debate, The Daily Mirror reports that statistics were revealed that show mesothelioma rates in the UK have nearly doubled in 10 years. According to the news source, hospitals treated 7,349 cases of mesothelioma in the past year, compared to 3,773 cases during the timeframe of 1998-99. The Mirror calls mesothelioma an “asbestos timebomb,” citing the disease’s long latency period.
The Mirror quotes Hepburn as saying, “We’re seeing the legacy of workers exposed to asbestos in the 1960s.”
A clinical trial for patients with malignant mesothelioma is currently recruiting participants. The trial is sponsored by Papworth Hospital in the UK, although it is open to any mesothelioma patient that meets the criteria. This study will evaluate video-assisted surgery to see how well it works compared with talc pleurodesis in treating patients with malignant mesothelioma.
According to information on ClinicalTrials.gov, a service of the U.S. National Institutes of Health, this is a randomized phase III trial. Video-assisted surgery removes part of the tissue layer covering the inside of the chest cavity, which researchers think may be effective in treating pleural effusion and cause less damage to normal tissue. Talc pleurodesis may keep fluid from building up in the chest cavity. It is not known at this time which thereapy is more effective.
The primary objective of this study, as stated in the project outline, is to compare the effectiveness of these two modes of treatment in terms of 1-year survival, in patients with suspected or proven malignant mesothelioma.
Secondary goals of the study include comparing the control of pleural effusion, comparing procedure-related complications, comparing symptoms and quality of life of these patients at 3, 6 and 12 months after treatment, comparing the length of hospital stay, the exercise tolerance level of these patients at 3, 6 and 12 months after treatment, and to determine the cost to the health service, in terms of resources used for procedures, hospital bed usage and cost of primary and secondary care over 12 months.
Recruiting locations in the UK are Basildon University Hospital, Gelnfield Hospital (Leicester), Guy’s Hospital (London), Papworth Hospital (Cambridge) and Royal Hallamshire Hospital (Sheffield). Principal investigator for the study is Robert Winter, MD, Papworth Hospital.
This study is identified in the U.S. at clinicaltrials.gov by ID number NCT00821860.
For contact and recruiting information, visit the Clinical Trials information page at http://clinicaltrials.gov/ct2/show/study/NCT00821860.
A startling new study from the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), which is part of the World Health Organization, says a new study reveals more cancers than previously thought are related to exposure to asbestos fibers. Results of the study were published this summer in the Lancet Oncology journal.
The findings were part of an article published in the July 19 edition of the Guardian, which says medical researchers now believe that the danger of asbestos exposure may have been “seriously underestimated.”
Asbestos disease – particularly mesothelioma – is a looming epidemic in the UK, expected to peak in the middle of the next decade, resulting in about 5,000 deaths each year, according to figures from the Health and Safety Executive (HSE). Many of these deaths will be a result of secondary exposure, in addition to more typical industrial type exposure, the agency says.
The Guardian article says “patterns of premature fatalities” among such professions as electricians, plumbers, garage mechanics, and even teachers and hairdressers” are now being reported.
Additionally, the government’s Industrial Injuries Advisory Council (IIAC) estimates that as many as 90,000 people each year may be developing pleural plaques – an early indicator of asbestos contamination in the chest cavity and lungs. There is a debate currently raging in the UK to determine whether or not people diagnosed with pleural plaques are eligible to sue for compensation for their injury. A 2007 House of Lords judgment barred these claimants, saying pleural plaques “do not alter the structure of the lungs or restrict their expansion.”
However, proponents for the rights of those with pleural plaques to sue point out that this early asbestos disease could develop into more serious diseases including asbestosis, a severe scarring of the lungs, and mesothelioma, a deadly cancer.
According to the Guardian, more than half of all work-related deaths from six major cancers in the UK are related to asbestos. Additionally, studies estimate that as many as 125 million people around the world work in asbestos-contaminated offices and factories, even if asbestos is not actively used in any manufacturing or other activity at that facility.
Now, the IARC study says “sufficient evidence is now available to show that asbestos also causes cancer of the larynx (throat) and of the ovary.”
Today I heard from Debbie Brewer, our friend in the UK. She is just returned from another visit to Dr. Thomas Vogl in Germany, where she had wonderful success with the clinical trial for chemoembolization. She first visited Vogl for the treatment in May 2008. In March 2009, she found that her tumor had shrunk an amazing 73 percent since her first treatment. This week, she reports that even Dr. Vogl was surprised to see that Theo – as she nicknamed the tumor – had shrunk an additional 10 percent! That’s a total reduction of 83 PERCENT for those of you keeping score!
This is truly wonderful and amazing news, particularly for a cancer like mesothelioma, which has no known cure. This sounds pretty darn close for Debbie, who is considered in remission with this amount of tumor gone.
Those who have been following Debbie’s story and have read the Q&A with Dr. Vogl we posted on this site know that chemoembolization is a procedure currently in clinical trials. The process involves introducing chemotherapy directly to the tumor, and basically trapping it there, concentrating it where it is most needed. Dr. Vogl is head of the Department of Diagnostic and Interventional Radiology at J.W. Goethe University Hospital at Frankfurt University.
The clinical trial is currently treating between 300 and 400 patients with primary and secondary lung cancer annually, and about 20 mesothelioma patients.
For more information, see the Q&A with Dr. Vogl.
Read more of Debbie’s story at her blog, Mesothelioma & Me.
A new report prepared by the Institute of Cancer Research and the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine examines the occupational, domestic and environmental mesothelioma risks in Britain. The findings are not good news.
The study was conducted for the Health and Safety Executive, an organization whose mission is to prevent death, injury and ill health in Great Britain’s workplaces. The HSE says this is the largest global study of its kind, including more than 600 patients with mesothelioma and 1,400 healthy people, interviewed to examine the rates of mesothelioma among different occupations in the UK.
Statistics resulting from the study include the following:
- One in 17 British carpenters bornin the 1940s will die of mesothelioma
- Plumbers, electricians and decorators born in the 1940s who worked in their trade for more than 10 years before they were 30 have a risk of 1 in 50 of dying of mesothelioma
- The risk for other construction workers born in this generation is 1 in 125.
- For every case of mesothelioma, asbestos also causes about 1 case of lung cancer; the risk of asbestos-related lung cancer for carpenters in this age group is 1 in 10.
- In other industries, about two thirds of British men and one quarter of British women worked in jobs with potential asbestos exposure.
- Among the general UK population, even those who did not experience occupational exposure still have a 1 in 1,000 risk of mesothelioma, indicating unrecognized environmental asbestos exposure, due to its widespread use in the 1960s and 1970s.
The report estimates there are more than 2,100 people diagnosed with mesothelioma in the UK every year, with about 5 times as many cases in men as in women.
A report posted yesterday by The Daily Mirror, a publication in the United Kingdom, features an interview with Barbara McQueen, widow of legendary actor Steve McQueen, who died of mesothelioma in 1981. The actor was exposed to asbestos while in the Marines, Barbara recalls, when assigned the duty of cleaning asbestos-lined pipes.
The Mirror is spearheading what it calls the Asbestos Timebomb Campaign, to raise awareness of the danger of asbestos exposure and to call on the British government to take action in preventing it. The news agency has a list of five demands as part of the campaign:
- Establishment of a £10 million National Centre for Asbestos Related Disease to find better treatment, alleviate suffering and work on cures.
- Reinstate compensation for victims of “pleural plaques” – scars on lungs caused by asbestos – after it was abandoned two years ago.
- Secure fair and equal compensation for asbestos disease sufferers who can’t trace the insurers of the bosses who exposed them, through a new Employers’ Liability Insurance Bureau paid for by the insurance industry.
- Establish a public register of all asbestos surveys carried out on public buildings.
- Provide the government’s Health and Safety Executive with the resources to meet the department’s own targets for inspecting asbestos removal work.
In a statement published by The Mirror, Barbara said, “I commend the Mirror for its watchdog efforts in leading the charge regarding asbestos exposure. My husband’s death was a long and painful ordeal, and I can readily identify with those who have been exposed to asbestos as well as their loved ones.”
She said that at the time Steve McQueen was diagnosed with mesothelioma, it was widely reported in the media simply as lung cancer. Many people are still unaware that the actor actually died as a result of asbestos exposure, she said.
Ironically, Barbara now lives in Montana, an hour’s drive from Libby, the site of the largest known asbestos contamination in U.S. history. The poisoning of Libby is linked to the vermiculite mine that operated there for years under the W.R. Grace & Company.
The company and some of its top officials are in the midst of a criminal trial to determine if it knowingly exposed mine workers and nearby residents to deadly asbestos.
Our friend Debbie Brewer has reported that after her visit with Dr. Thomas J. Vogl in Germany this week, she can report that her tumor has shrunk an additional TWENTY PERCENT!! This is a total of 73 percent smaller than when she began the experimental chemoembolization process! Amazing!!
Even better, Debbie reports on her blog, Mesothelioma & Me, that a doctor in London is interested in bringing Professor Vogl to the UK to present his technique! Currently, this therapy is only available in Germany, where Dr. Vogl is pioneering the procedure for the treatment of cancer including mesothelioma at the University Clinic, Frankfurt.
Those who have been following Debbie’s story know she began chemoembolization under Dr. Vogl’s care in May 2008, and now she is essentially in remission! As a result of her success, Debbie is a vocal campaigner to bring the procedure to more widespread availability.
Debbie was just featured in The Plymouth Herald, speaking out about her success with chemoembolization and her efforts to bring the treatment to the UK. Doctors originally told Debbie she had only six to nine months to live at her original diagnosis.