Mesothelioma is a brutal, relentless disease. Like some frightening predator from a gothic novel, it lies in wait, sometimes for ten or twenty years, other times for nearly half a century, only to awaken long after the victim has forgotten that dust they inhaled decades ago, and strike with a cough that turns deadly, often giving the victim little more than a year's time before it finishes them off.
Hope is the one thing mesothelioma patients need most. And, of course, the drugs or treatment than can provide that hope. As one of the rare victims who survived their initial attack of the disease notes, they have a 4 percent survival rate. In the U.S., 3,000 people fall victim to the disease every year, worldwide the death toll is more than 100,000.
These numbers are likely to grow, especially worldwide, as asbestos has remained in widespread use in many places throughout the world, even after its use was restricted or banned.
Today, as the head of one of the ongoing drug trials put it, "This is not a curable cancer." Numerous drug trials are currently working on ways of changing that and giving mesothelioma patients a better chance at long-term survival.
One survivor does not fit the stereotype of an old shipyard workers; she was a 36-year-old woman. She apparently was exposed to the deadly asbestos fibers on her father's work clothes.
She would hug him as a little girl when he came home from his demolition work. His clothing was probably contaminated with untold millions of the deadly asbestos fibers, and in her excitement to see her father, she may have inhaled deep breaths full of the invisible, but fatal, fibers.
With millions of tons of asbestos embedded in the very floors, walls and ceilings of buildings throughout the world, we can only hope that these drug trials will transform mesothelioma into a treatable disease.
Source: Bloomberg.com, "Asbestos-Linked Cancer Attacked With New Drug Targets," Allison Connolly and Sonali Basak, April 30, 2014