[Press and Publications] British Scientists Bid to Tackle 'Silent Epidemic' - First National Conference Addresses 'International Tragedy' [Medical; Science]



February 2001

No 19

PHOTO OPPORTUNITY DETAILS BELOW

Malignant mesothelioma, a cancer that predominantly afflicts men and which will account for 100,000 deaths in coming years, will be the subject of a national conference organised by the University of Leicester.

This is the first national meeting of clinicians and scientists involved in the research and treatment of this disease. Representatives of the pharmaceutical industry, nurses and other interested parties will also be attending.

Dr Ken O’Byrne, Senior Lecturer and Consultant in the University Department of Oncology based at the Leicester Royal Infirmary, will chair the conference being held on Thursday February 22. He said:

“Malignant Mesothelioma is both a national and international tragedy caused predominantly by exposure of individuals and their families to asbestos fibres.

“The disease is an aggressive, debilitating malignancy of the lining of the lungs, referred to as the pleura, and, less commonly, the lining of the abdomen called the peritoneum. More than half the patients affected will die within 6 - 12 months of being diagnosed.

“In the UK malignant mesothelioma is already a more common cause of cancer death than cervical cancer and will be responsible for approximately 100,000 deaths over the next 2 to 3 decades. Indeed 1% of men born in the 1940s will die of the disease.

“At the present time there is no therapeutic intervention which has been proven to prolong survival let alone cure the disease. Current treatments are aimed primarily at controlling symptoms. Despite these facts research into the disease does not appear to be a priority with either government agencies or the major cancer charities, and is poorly supported financially.”

The British Mesothelioma Interest Group (BMIG) has been formed to meet and discuss progress in both scientific research and treatment of the disease. The group aims to:

  • Increase awareness of the disease amongst clinicians and scientists,
  • Support planned national and international treatment studies,
  • Assess the effectiveness of new anti-cancer drugs,
  • Help establish uniform standards of care.

    Dr O’Byrne added: “BMIG also intends to support and facilitate the efforts of those involved in informing the general public, politicians and government agencies of the true scale of the unfolding tragedy of this ‘silent epidemic’.”

    This meeting is a forum for British clinicians, nurses, scientists and other professional bodies with an interest in the disease to discuss recent and planned developments for research into, and treatment of, malignant mesothelioma.

    Dr O’Byrne said: “The establishment of BMIG should facilitate the development of a co-ordinated national approach to both scientific and clinical research, with an emphasis on ‘bench to bedside’ translational research programmes.

    “BMIG would also be in a strong position to support the efforts of the various mesothelioma patient support groups to give the disease a higher profile in both public and political domains. The need for increased funding of clinical and scientific research is of paramount importance”.

    NOTES TO EDITORS:

    MEDIA ARE INVITED TO ATTEND BETWEEN 12.15PM AND 2PM, THURSDAY FEBRUARY 22, CARLING BELVOIR SUITE, LEICESTER CITY FOOTBALL CLUB, FOR INTERVIEWS WITH DR O’BYRNE AND OTHER EXPERTS.

    THERE WILL ALSO BE TWO PATIENTS AVAILABLE AT THIS TIME WHO HAVE AGREED TO DISCUSS THEIR CASE HISTORIES. PLEASE CONTACT DR O’BYRNE IN THE FIRST INSTANCE.

    FOR MORE INFORMATION, CONTACT:

    Dr K J O'Byrne, Senior Lecturer/Consultant, University Dept of Oncology, Level 2 Osborne Building, Leicester Royal Infirmary, Leicester LE 1 5WW. Tel: 0116 258 7602 or 0116 258 7597, Fax: 0116 258 7599, Email: KOByrne@uhl.trent.nhs.uk.


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