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.
Thankfully, interest in mesothelioma seems to be increasing. According to a recent news article, one new drug currently in the development and testing phases seems to be a promising treatment for mesothelioma. It was created by a United States subsidiary of the pharmaceutical giant AstraZeneca. Moreover, a growing number of companies are now focusing on this “orphan disease,” and at least 20 clinical trials for mesothelioma drugs are currently underway.
Because mesothelioma is a slow-progressing cancer which rarely presents symptoms early on, most patients survive for only seven to 17 months after they are diagnosed, on average. If they prove to be effective, the drugs currently in development could potentially extend the average length of survival after diagnosis.
As with basically all diseases, prevention is the best cure, which is why the U.S. lawmakers were smart to ban asbestos. But people who develop asbestos-related illnesses usually didn’t have a choice about being exposed to it. In these cases, individuals deserve compensation as well as targeted medical care.
Source: Republican American, “Research finally increasing on rare asbestos-related lung cancer,” Andrea K. McDaniels, Aug. 16, 2015