Data show that use of asbestos in products reached a peak in the mid 1970s. Use declined as Americans became aware of the dangers of asbestos, and it was finally banned in the United States in the late 1980s. In spite of this, about 3,000 new cases of mesothelioma - a disease most closely tied to asbestos exposure - are diagnosed in the U.S. every year. Rates of diagnosis do not seem to be declining.
Mesothelioma is most often fatal - particularly because patients are usually diagnosed only when the disease has reached its late stages. There have been some major breakthroughs in certain types of cancer research in recent years, but not so with mesothelioma. Why is this? Unfortunately, the disease is rare enough that pharmaceutical companies see little opportunity for profit. Therefore, they don’t want to invest in the research needed to develop targeted drugs.