New support for mesothelioma sufferers in Australia

The Asbestos Research Group, offering hope to sufferers of asbestos-related diseases, was launched at The Wesley Research Institute today.

Special guest Karen Banton, widow of mesothelioma victim and campaigner Bernie Banton, officially launched the group, saying:

"Today brings hope of improved quality of life for those affected by asbestos exposure and ultimately a future free of asbestos-induced sickness."

"Beyond the boardroom and courtroom battles, this is truly Bernie's long-term legacy," she said.

Several Queensland doctors, concerned that Australia has the highest incidence of mesothelioma disease in theworld, have joined with the Wesley Research Institute to form the Asbestos Research Group.

Mesothelioma is a rare form of cancer, associated with asbestos exposure, which develops in the lining of the chest or abdominal cavity.

Unique in Queensland, the Asbestos Research Group will facilitate research and raise awareness of asbestosis and asbestos-related diseases both to the medical fraternity and the general community, with the aims of improving treatment and enhancing the quality of life of those affected.

The initiating group comprises Brisbane-based Drs Roger Allen, and Maurice Heiner. The Group will analyse the progression of the disease over time as the basis for further research into reduced lung function, then study asbestos-pleural pain. It will also analyse the physical, emotional and financial effects of the disease on patients.

Dr Allen said that he was inspired to be a foundation member of the Group after seeing the terrible effects of asbestos diseases first hand over the past 20 years.

"I continue to see middle aged adults dying from mesothelioma or asbestosis, the victims of decades of appalling indifference around the world to the known dangers of asbestos, and the ravages of asbestos will continue for decades to come," Dr Allen said.

"One of our Group's highest priorities will be to highlight these tragic effects in a world where the mining and export of asbestos continues in many countries."

Dr Allen also warns of a "second peak" of asbestos-related cancers and asbestosis in the next 20 years and said that it had been forecast that between 2000 and 2050 an estimated 27,000 deaths from mesothelioma would occur in Australia.

"However, the number of mesothelioma patients was just the tip of the iceberg", he said.

"The vast majority of patients with asbestos diseases suffer from benign asbestos pleural disease and asbestosis. The pain they endure was the subject of the first research project of the newly established Asbestos Research Group, the results of which I hope will be published and lead to greater recognition of benign asbestos pleural pain."

The Group began work in June 2007 and plans to publish findings describing asbestos-related conditions in detail, in particular the specific problems faced by an asbestosis patient.

Another early objective of the Group is the establishment of baseline data from which to embark on further research into the condition, including cell biology, serology and treatment strategies.

The Wesley Research Institute (WRI) is well situated for such research as it is co-located with The Wesley Hospital where there is a wide range of facilities such as respiratory medicine, medico-legal experts, thoracic surgery, radiation oncology, chemotherapy and palliative care. The Hospital also has an excellent radiology service with one of only two PET scanners in Queensland.

Professor Julie Campbell AO, Director of WRI and Chairman of the Asbestos Research Group, said the aims of the Group fitted well with the unique nature of the WRI, which sought immediate improvements to patient care and easing of pain and suffering through medical research.

"We hope the Asbestos Research Group will provide hope to others in a similar position to Bernie. Sufferers can take comfort in the fact that some of the top clinicians in Queensland are focusing their efforts on trying to improve their quality of life," she said

"WRI wishes to thank the Slater and Gordon Asbestos Research Trust for providing financial support for the Group's work."

http://www.asbestosresearchgroup.org.au/ and http://www.wesleyresearch.org.au/

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