Asbestos conference puts spotlight on immunotherapy trials

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Specialist asbestos disease solicitors Rebecca Ryan and Alison Sayers attended the recent virtual APIL (Association of Personal Injury Lawyers) Asbestos Conference 2020, which took place last month on 17 September. Here Rebecca, from our Cardiff office, gives her key takeaways from the event.

The APIL Asbestos Conference is an annual event for legal professionals including solicitors, barristers and legal executives involved in helping clients affected by asbestos diseases, such as mesothelioma, an incurable cancer of the lining of the lungs or abdomen.

It is always an interesting and informative event providing delegates with an opportunity to keep up to date with the very latest clinical and legal developments in the asbestos disease field.

Due to COVID-19 restrictions, this year’s asbestos conference was held entirely online. Attendees either logged on to the brand new APIL App or accessed the conference on their computer or laptops’ web browsers.

Immunotherapy clinical trials

This year, there was a whole host of distinguished keynote speakers covering hot topics including mesothelioma risks, historic building asbestos exposure, asbestosis, and lung cancer, and some of the legalities surrounding asbestos compensation claims for deceased family members.

However, the main highlight for me at this year’s conference was an informative talk given by Professor Peter Szlosarek, Professor of Medical Oncology at St Bartholomew’s Hospital in London, who spoke about the latest immunotherapy clinical trials for patients with mesothelioma.

It was encouraging to learn that a trial involving the immunotherapy drug Nivolumab has shown some auspicious results. It found that patients on the trial with positive PD-L1 results (a protein that helps keep immune cells from attacking non-harmful cells in the body and an indicator that immunotherapy may be beneficial) had an 18-month median survival, which was 40% higher.

The good news is that approval for Nivolumab has been given by NHS England on an initial interim basis. It is currently only available on the NHS as a second-line treatment in England. However, at present, they are not able to give the drug to patients who are on their third line of treatment.

Other clinical trials have shown that treating mesothelioma with a combination of two immunotherapy drugs can be more effective than giving a patient one of the drugs alone. However, one of the trials, known as Checkmate 743, has found that this combination therapy can increase side effects by 10-20%. Interestingly, those patients who experienced a skin rash during the trial were generally responding well to the immunotherapy treatment.

Gaining a better understanding of cancers at the asbestos conference

It is clear there is a greater awareness and understanding of asbestos-related cancers, and there have been some positive developments from immunotherapy clinical trials in recent years.

However, it is a long process, and immunotherapy is not yet a standard, first-line treatment for the asbestos disease mesothelioma. The conference provided some hope that medical research is getting closer to making pioneering treatment such as immunotherapy a reality for more people affected by mesothelioma.

If you or a family member has been diagnosed with an asbestos-related disease, Novum Law’s expert asbestos and mesothelioma team is on hand to provide specialist legal advice and support. Call Freephone 0800 884 0777, email or complete our online contact form for a free, no-obligation chat.

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