Share on LinkedIn

It can take 40 years to surface. By the time it does, it’s already too late.

For generations, thousands of Australian families were exposed to asbestos. Many would return home covered in asbestos dust, as part of their daily toil. Their families were also exposed, from giving their dad a hug when he arrived home, or washing his dust-covered clothes.

Sadly, by the time the dangers of asbestos became known, thousands of Australians had already been exposed to its deadly toxins. We know now that even a small exposure can lead to an incurable cancer known as mesothelioma.

Mesothelioma is cancer of the mesothelium—the sack that lines many of the body’s internal organs. It typically forms on the inside of the chest wall, where it continues to grow and slowly suffocate its victim by surrounding, compressing and ultimately “strangling” the lungs.

Thousands of Australians have died from mesothelioma so far. Without a cure, it’s estimated that at least a further 25,000 could die in the next 25 years. With a 20 to 40 year delay between exposure and the onset of mesothelioma, what we don’t know is just how many people will be affected.

The science

It’s why QIMR Berghofer researcher, Associate Professor David Reid has prepared a study which aims to identify what the risk factors are for developing the disease and new treatments that could potentially improve survival and possibly even lead to prevention.

The research team laid groundwork for an important study into how the body reacts to the iron, which may hold the key to understanding why some people develop cancer from exposure to asbestos, while others seem to be unharmed.

He explains: “We want to be able to further study the role that the iron has in causing injury to the cells. We also want to be able to understand what genetic factors increase the risk of developing mesothelioma, which could potentially lead to screening programs and the ability to intervene before the cancer develops.”

He believes research is critical: “Funding for this research is very, very important. We are talking about a disease that’s going to increase in prevalence, affecting more and more people. It’s an unpleasant way to die and there’s currently no cure

Maree’s experience

Mesothelioma is a devastating cancer that can impact a whole family. Maree has seen its impact too many times. She lost her husband Eddie to mesothelioma; he was only 56 when he was diagnosed.

Maree remembers:
“The doctor gave the diagnosis,
and told us he had about
12 months to live—
just like that, 12 months.
It was shocking.”

While Eddie survived a few more years, tragically, shortly after he passed away, his sister, Beverly, was diagnosed with mesothelioma. She too died five years later. They are painful memories for Maree: “It is an awful death. This thick fluid builds up in their lungs, the fluid keeps building and so does the pressure.”

Today, the average survival for people diagnosed with mesothelioma is only 12 months. Every year, 500 men and 100 women are diagnosed in Australia. This number is set to increase to as many as 900 people per year by 2020.

Your donation today will allow us to invest in much-needed research for Associate Professor David Reid and other vital research projects. Together, we can bring hope for many who are concerned by what their future may bring.


Donate now