Welsh Research Links Mesothelioma Survival With Cell Differences


The Law Of... surviving mesothelioma

Research by Welsh pathologists has discovered that the chances of survival after a mesothelioma diagnosis can change based on subtle differences in the cells that make up the disease.

An asbestos solicitor based in Wales responds to a study on mesothelioma survival rates

Phillip Gower – Partner on Simpson Millar's Industrial Disease team and Head of our Cardiff office – explains the study and answers some of the key questions that he is asked by mesothelioma sufferers in Wales.

Mesothelioma Cell Differences

Pathologists in Wales analysed nearly 200 cases of malignant mesothelioma, finding that even subtle differences in the mesothelioma cells can have a measurable impact on survival.

As part of the study, scientists looked to break down the common types of mesothelioma, to establish whether differences within each subtypes affected survival rates.

It has been long established that there are three common types of mesothelioma; these are pleural, peritoneal, and pericardial mesothelioma.

Of these, pleural mesothelioma is the most common, so it was this form of the cancer that pathologists in the study focused on. Pleural mesothelioma itself has three distinct subtypes, epithelioid, sarcomatoid, and biphasic; pathologists wanted to delve even deeper into these subtypes to see how differences within the cells that make up the subtypes affected survival rate.

By analysing the six variations within pleural epithelioid mesothelioma, researchers were able to find that survival rates changed significantly, depending on the individual cells that characterised this niche grouping of mesothelioma.

The findings – which show that on a cellular level survival rates of mesothelioma can change – has led to calls for pathology reports to include description of mesothelioma on a cellular level, as subtle cell differences can have a significant effect on a sufferer's prognosis.

What Are The Risks Of Mesothelioma In Wales?

With evidence suggesting that almost 5% of all mesothelioma cases in the UK are diagnosed in Wales, and previous reports highlighting that two Welsh patients are diagnosed with the cancer every week, it's no coincidence that this breakthrough into research of survival rates came from the University Hospital of Wales.

Many occupations are considered at risk of exposure to the deadly asbestos material that can cause mesothelioma, including shipbuilding and dock yard workers, manual labourers, and steel workers. Phillip explains how this poses a particular risk to those working in Wales:

"With Wales well known for its steelworks in Port Talbot and Ebbw Vale there's a serious risk that those who worked there 20, 30, 40, or even 50 years ago could now be facing a mesothelioma diagnosis."

"While asbestos exposure and related illnesses can take a long time to develop, they are almost always aggressive once they have been diagnosed; despite this the study by pathologists in Wales should give some hope to those who have been diagnosed with the most common pleural mesothelioma."

Do Asbestos Rules Differ In Wales?

Wales adheres to the same rules and regulations as the rest of the UK, which is managed by the Asbestos Prohibition Regulations.

First introduced in 1985, the regulations only banned the use of blue and brown asbestos; it was not until 1999, over 100 years after the first concerns were raised over the safety of using asbestos, that a full and complete ban of asbestos was introduced across the UK.

Since then the Control of Asbestos Regulations 2012 looked to update previous regulations and ensured that UK laws were in line with EU Directives, which resulted in minor changes in the way that licensed and un-licensed work with asbestos is managed.

Discussing asbestos laws in Wales, Phillip said:

"Due to the late ban of asbestos in Wales, and the rest of the UK for that matter, exposure to the deadly material is as prevalent today as it was decades ago, especially when you consider that almost half a million non-residential properties across the UK are thought to have dormant asbestos."

"There has been a commitment from MPs that asbestos will be completely eradicated from workplaces by 2035, which will be a step forward but could mean that, due to the long latency period; mesothelioma will continue to be a huge public health concern for up to five decades after that date."

What Support Can I Receive In Wales?

We have a dedicated office in Cardiff, which is headed up by Phillip Gower, who was the first lawyer in Wales to become an APIL accredited occupational and asbestos disease specialist.

This accreditation highlights Phillip's skill and experience in handling asbestos claims in Wales and it was through a tough scrutiny of his portfolio of work that Phillip gained this accreditation.

As the Head of our Cardiff base, Phillip has helped many Welsh employees who have received a devastating diagnosis related to their past exposure to asbestos.

Explaining how Simpson Millar's Industrial Disease team can help mesothelioma sufferers in Wales, Phillip said:

"We deal with devastating cases of mesothelioma with understanding, compassion, and the utmost urgency. I was honoured to become the first solicitor in Wales to receive APIL's accreditation but our whole Industrial Disease team deserves as much credit as I for their work helping mesothelioma sufferers across the UK."

"We commit to visiting our clients and their families, so that we can discuss the details of their case in an open and face-to-face meeting, which I think helps their coping process and understanding of this devastating illness."

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