Specialist mesothelioma nurses in the NHS

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Mesothelioma UK funds research into this terminal disease, to improve the care and treatment of those diagnosed. Providing valuable support to asbestos victims and their families, the charity is dedicated to finding an effective treatment through laboratory testing and clinical trials.

Liz Darlinson spoke on behalf of Mesothelioma UK at a recent parliamentary sub-committee meeting in the House of Commons, explaining the history of the charity and its ongoing efforts to find a medical breakthrough.

Malignant mesothelioma is a form of cancer attributed to breathing in asbestos dust and fibres, and although there are two main forms of the disease, the most common suffered by asbestos victims is pleural mesothelioma.

A devastating diagnosis

Pleural mesothelioma attacks the lining of the lungs, making it increasingly difficult for patients to breathe over time. The disease is often diagnosed only at an advanced stage, resulting in an average life expectancy of less than a year.

Latest statistics indicate that, until the end of this decade, around 2,500 deaths per year will occur due to mesothelioma. Health and Safety Executive figures show there were 2,548 mesothelioma deaths in 2012, and 2,538 in 2013.

The aggressive nature of the disease makes it very difficult to treat, particularly if a relapse occurs following chemotherapy. The training of specialist nurses is just one approach to helping patients at each stage.

Specialist nurses within the NHS

Mesothelioma UK funds the provision of nurses in the NHS, to provide specialist care to those diagnosed. With no known cure at present, this and other funding that goes into research is vital for the future, and could potentially extend the life-expectancy of asbestos victims.

There are currently 16 specialist mesothelioma nurses working in the NHS, all of them funded by Mesothelioma UK. With a plan to provide 28 nurses in total to care for mesothelioma patients, the charity is clearly making a difference to the experience of asbestos victims and their families.

Funding research into the disease

Lung cancer expert, Professor Dean Fennell, of Leicester University, is a key figure in cancer research, and is leading clinical trials into mesothelioma. He spoke of their high cost – up to several million pounds for each trial – making charity donations even more important if future victims are to stand a better chance of recovery. The charity reportedly hopes to donate £3 million a year to this type of research.

The money is used towards laboratory testing of new drugs that could potentially improve the success rate of chemotherapy treatment. Drugs that may be suitable are then tested on patients via clinical trials, in the hope of extending their life-expectancy.

£5 million from the government

It is widely accepted that malignant mesothelioma reacts differently with every patient, and therefore individual treatments need to be applied, rather than taking a ‘blanket’ approach to treatment.

The government has pledged funding of £5 million, taken from fines imposed on the banks after the 2012 LIBOR scandal, the intention being to create a national mesothelioma research centre somewhere in the UK.