Asbestos-related disease research

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The projects outlined below are examples of key research undertaken by major organisations into the impact of asbestos on people and the general community and potential treatments for asbestos-related diseases in the future.

If your organisation undertakes research into asbestos or asbestos-related diseases, please contact the agency to provide information to the Research Advisory Committee.  

Australian research

Targeted antibody therapies for malignant mesothelioma

Cancer Council Victoria

Doctor Peter Janes from Monash University and A/Professor Tom John from the Olivia Newton-John Cancer Research Institute will continue research into antibody therapies for malignant mesothelioma. They have developed antibodies against two cancer targets in malignant mesothelioma. Mesothelioma patient tissue will be screened to define eligible patient populations and mouse models will be used to developed effective therapy strategies.

Hippo pathway in mesothelioma

Cancer Council Victoria

A team of doctors headed by Professor Kieran Harvey at the Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre are working to decipher the role of the Hippo pathway in mesothelioma. The Hippo pathway is a group of genes that relays messages from the surface of the cell to the nucleus to change the cell’s behaviour and can change and cause cancer. It is present in at least half of all people with mesotheliomas. The researchers hope that this work will help in the search for possible new treatments for mesothelioma patients.

The above two research grants were as a result of increased funding allocated by Cancer Council Victoria into mesothelioma research equating to $700,000, made possible through the late Lyall Watts Mesothelioma Research grants. Mesothelioma remains one of Australia’s deadliest cancers with 726 diagnosed annually and a 5 year-survival rate of 7%. Both projects will be funded for a period of three years.

The media release for the above two projects is on the Cancer Council Victoria website.

MicroRNA replacement:  A novel therapeutic approach for malignant mesothelioma

Asbestos Diseases Research Institute

A breakthrough discovery found that an entire family of gene regulators, called microRNAs, are lost in mesothelioma. As part of a Cancer Council NSW funded grant, Associate Professor Glen Reid from the Asbestos Diseases Research Institute and his research team, in collaboration with scientists at the biotech company EnGeneIC, are creating a new therapeutic drug for mesothelioma that mimics those microRNAs which are lost during the development of mesothelioma. Restoring the activity of these microRNAs stops the growth of the mesothelioma cells and makes the cancer cells more sensitive to chemotherapy. For more information, visit the Cancer Council NSW website or ADRI website.

A Phase I study of TargomiRs in patients with refractory malignant pleural mesothelioma and lung cancer

Asbestos Diseases Research Institute

A first-in-man (Phase I) trial led by Professor Nico van Zandwijk from ADRI is underway to establish the safety and optimal dose of this novel microRNA treatment approach mentioned above. The minicells loaded with microRNA (constructs) are dubbed TargomiRs. The concept of the new treatment resembles the Trojan horse story, where tumour cells absorb the TargomiRs followed by release of microRNAs and slowing/stopping of tumour growth. So far the results from the Phase I clinical trial have been encouraging and ADRI is preparing a Phase II clinical trial focused on the efficacy of TargomiRs. ADRI has received funding for this research from a variety of sources including the Cancer Institute of NSW, Work Cover NSW, the Andrew Lloyd family bequest, John T Reid Charitable Trust, James Hardies Industries and a number of private donations. For more information, visit the ADRI website.

Treatment for mesothelioma and asbestosis

School of Life Sciences, Institute for Biotechnology of Infectious Diseases, Faculty of Science, University of Technology Sydney

Researchers at the UTS School of Life Sciences are developing a puffer and nebuliser to moderate the symptoms of mesothelioma and asbestosis and to slow the progression of the diseases. For more information, visit the UTS website.  

 

International research

New cases of mesothelioma and asbestos-related lung cancer in one year cost CAD$1.9 Billion

Institute for Work and Health, Canada

According to a recent study led by Canadian Institute for Work & Health (IWH) Senior Scientist and health economist Dr. Emile Tompa, one year’s newly diagnosed cases of mesothelioma and lung cancer due to work-related asbestos exposures cost Canadians $1.9 billion. The study is the first to estimate the costs to society of illnesses associated with work-related asbestos exposures, including secondhand or “para-occupational” exposures (e.g. a family member’s exposure to fibres brought home on work clothing). Also see the powerpoint presentation delivered to an Advisory Committee meeting of the European Agency for Safety and Health at Work in June 2016.