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New research aims to diagnose asbestos disease earlier and more affordably

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The Asbestos Diseases Research Institute has begun new research that aims to improve diagnosis of one of the most aggressive forms of cancer caused by asbestos exposure.

Australia has the world’s highest incidence of malignant pleural mesothelioma (MPM) per capita, with around 600 new cases diagnosed each year, due to previous widespread use of the known carcinogen asbestos.

It is estimated that the incidence of malignant mesothelioma will continue to increase over the next two decades.

To combat the threat, researchers at the ADRI are analysing molecular markers of patients diagnosed with MPM, to try and identify the disease more easily.

Their research is being funded by a $25 thousand grant from Slater and Gordon’s Health Projects and Research Fund.

ADRI Senior Research Scientist Dr Ruby Lin said diagnosis of MPM is traditionally quite difficult, especially in cases where biopsies are not available.

“Traditional methods of diagnosis often leave sufferers of malignant pleural mesothelioma with a very poor outlook by the time they are diagnosed,” Dr Lin said.

“We’re trying a novel approach for these patients by working to find non-traditional diagnostic and prognostic markers by looking at the molecular structure of their blood.

“A new blood-borne marker would be a significant advance in next generation diagnostic technology and could be developed into a simple, cheap, blood-based test."

“This would allow for the early identification of malignant pleural mesothelioma in people with a known history of asbestos exposure and could even improve their outlook."

Slater and Gordon Asbestos Lawyer Joanne Wade said early intervention is key to improving survival rates for sufferers of asbestos disease.

“Hundreds of Australians continue to be diagnosed with mesothelioma, asbestosis, lung cancer and other asbestos-related diseases every year,” she said.

“The dangers of asbestos should never be underestimated, with even low levels of exposure able to cause life threatening illnesses."