Medical Breakthrough Gives Asbestos Victims Hope

Asbestos has become a huge problem in Oz despite its use being banned in the country for years. There are a number of ex-workers in the building and construction, as well as other fields who have developed asbestos induced diseases due to exposure to the material’s deadly fibres.

There are some workers who, due to prolonged exposure to the material and inhalation of the fibrous substance have developed mesothelioma, which is an aggressive and fatal form of lung cancer.

And Australia isn’t the only country to have high numbers of the population suffering from this disease, throughout the world, the scourge of asbestos has caused sickness and disease to many. Now, due to a medical breakthrough in Canada, these victims may have a second chance of life.

A new therapy developed by 2 Toronto based doctors has doubled the life expectancy of patients suffering from the disease.

The following excerpt from an article on provides more details:

But thanks to a new therapy pioneered by a pair of Toronto doctors, 74-year-old Chan has been cancer free for more than four years.

The technique used by Dr. John Cho and Dr. Marc de Perrot at the Princess Margaret Cancer Centre has doubled survival times in patients with mesothelioma, according to research they published last month. Their success has drawn attention from around the world and they say doctors at the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota will soon attempt to use their method.

Cho, a radiation oncologist, and de Perrot, a thoracic surgeon, paired up to turn conventional treatment on its head, giving patients radiation before surgery instead of after it. They’ve dubbed the technique SMART, for Surgery for Mesothelioma After Radiation Therapy, and Cho says three-year survival rates have more than doubled, from 32 per cent to 72 per cent.


The doctors say that survival rates may be even better than anticipated because the study was only started 5 years ago so in the years to come they may still improve.

What is Mesothelioma

Mesothelioma is the disease caused when the microscopic fibres from asbestos are inhaled by humans. These fibres act like “needles”, gradually making their way into the lining of the lungs over decades.

Members of the building and construction trade are most often exposed during renovation and refurbishment projects. Older buildings in Oz may still contain asbestos containing materials like doors, roofing material etc. Although their use is banned further, old buildings may still be a risk.

One of the doctors involved with the breakthrough goes on to explain:

What make the cancer so hard to treat, Cho says, is that some of those fibres and affected cells would escape during surgery and the cancer would spread anew.

Traditional treatment removes the affected lung and then treats the patient with radiation in hopes any lingering cancer will be killed. Cho and de Perrot’s program gives the patient a toxic dose of radiation before surgery, ensuring that any cancer cells left over afterward aren’t viable.

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