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Breakthrough In NHS Approved Treatment For Mesothelioma

Last Friday was a momentous day for patients with malignant pleural mesothelioma in the UK, as the NHS announced that NICE have approved a new treatment which is now available for patients with this aggressive form of cancer, which is  caused by inhalation of microscopic asbestos fibres.

What is Malignant Pleural Mesothelioma?

Malignant pleural mesothelioma is a cancer which develops in the cells in the pleural space, surrounding the lungs. The disease typically occurs several decades after inhalation of airborne asbestos fibres. The exposure will usually have taken place in an occupational setting but can also occur in environmental and domestic settings. Whatever the source of the exposure, the results are devastating.

For the past 15 years, the only approved treatments available to patients being treated for mesothelioma within the NHS were chemotherapy and radiotherapy. Whilst undoubtedly effective for slowing progression of the cancer in some patients, chemotherapy is not tolerated by all.

However, advances in clinical research and an increase in clinical trials of new immunotherapy drugs have meant that other options have been available to some patients, provided they met the relevant trial criteria and lived near or were able to travel to a trial centre. In most cases, though, access to immunotherapy was as second line treatment only, meaning that they had to undergo a course of chemotherapy first.

An important cancer treatment development

This latest development means that NHS clinicians can now offer to treat mesothelioma patients with a combination of immunotherapy drugs, Nivolumab and Ipilimumab, for up to 2 years. Clinical trials have already shown this to be a more effective treatment alternative treatment to chemotherapy, with increased survival and slowed  progression of the disease over a 3 year period in a significant number of patients. Crucially, patients will no longer have to undergo chemotherapy before accessing this new treatment. For many to have this option will make a huge difference for patients and their families.

The importance of this development cannot be overstated. Britain has the highest worldwide rate of mesothelioma per head of population, with around 2,700 people each year being diagnosed with the illness. New use of asbestos was only finally banned in the UK in 1999 so given the long latency of mesothelioma, it is likely that many more will be diagnosed with this terrible illness, which should have been avoidable.

Although mesothelioma is generally associated with men who have worked in industry in the past, an increasing number of both men and women are still being diagnosed with the illness, who do not have such a work history.

Mesothelioma Compensation Claims

For several years now, it has been possible for many of our clients with mesothelioma to achieve settlements of their compensation claims against former employers, to include a commitment by their employers’ insurers, to pay for private medical treatment costs, so that they can access immunotherapy. However, this could only be achieved, at an early stage, in the patient’s journey, if the Defendant’s insurers co-operated. Whilst new drugs continue to be developed, this is still a vital part of any settlement of a mesothelioma claim. In the meantime, though, NICE approval of these drugs greatly enhances the options available to mesothelioma sufferers throughout the UK.

If you have been affected by Mesothelioma, our experienced Asbestos & Mesothelioma Compensation Lawyers can help you claim the compensation you deserve. Call 0330 822 3451 now or request a call back.