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Wednesday, 23 March 2016

Wednesday, 23 March 2016

A brand new drug is being developed by scientists as the University of Bradford that is promising new hope for mesothelioma sufferers, who are regularly given just 1 year to live after diagnosis.

Known only as HXR9, the findings on this new drug have been published recently in the BMC Cancer journal.

How Does The Drug Work?

This revolutionary drug has built upon pre-existing knowledge about how cancer cells work, and forces the cancer cells to shut down:

·         The HXR9 drug prevents cancer cells from avoiding the process of unhealthy and damaged cells closing themselves down and dying (this is known as apoptosis).
·         Cancer cells have developed over time to ignore this process but HXR9 forces apoptosis. It is the first drug to work in mesothelioma cases, where the cancer is resistant to all current chemotherapy treatments.
·         After three weeks' treatment with HXR9, human mesothelioma tumours in mice stopped growing, with a complete loss of tumour blood vessels and widespread cancer cell death.
·         It is hoped that the new drug will be available for human use with continued trials.

Targeting Aggressive Forms of Mesothelioma

HXR9 targets the HOX gene family, which are usually switched off in adults, but previous research has shown that in many cancers HOX genes are switched back on, helping the cancer grow.

Mesothelioma has a strong association with HOXB4; and this study has found the more HOXB4 that is present, the shorter time the patient survived. During the study, scientists may have unlocked the secret to predicting which patients have the most aggressive form of mesothelioma.

Specialist mesothelioma solicitor at Simpson Millar, Helen Grady comments:

"I very much welcome this news; I have many mesothelioma clients who are on drug trials around the country and desperate for new drugs. 
It is absolutely tragic that the treatment options are currently very limited for this aggressive cancer. It is obviously upsetting when I see new clients and can only offer a financial remedy.
Research such as this certainly is a ray of hope and shines light on such a tragic situation."

Simpson Millar Can Help You

If you're concerned about a mesothelioma claim, and are seeking advice on the claims process, we are able to guide you through the uncertainty with straightforward and jargon-free legal advice.

All you need to do is call us on 0808 129 3320 or alternatively fill out our online enquiry form.

Tuesday, 1 March 2016

Tuesday, 1 March 2016

Gateshead MP Condemns Rules Barring Veteran Mesothelioma Sufferers from Receiving Compensation

A legal loophole means that many ex-service personnel now suffering with mesothelioma from asbestos exposure will miss out on receiving compensation.

Many of those working in the Royal Navy were exposed to asbestos during time spent on shipbuilding sites – asbestos was used extensively in shipbuilding up until the 1980s. It's anticipated that, by 2050, around 2,500 ex-servicemen will have died from mesothelioma.

Lump Sum Payments Restricted for Many

Mesothelioma is an aggressive form of cancer – the average person survives around 12 months after diagnosis – which is why lump sum payments are important.

Helen Grady, Partner and Industrial Disease Solicitor at Simpson Millar, explains:

"All of my clients diagnosed with mesothelioma receive a Government Lump Sum; however, the rules are different for those whose mesothelioma is a result of exposure to asbestos whilst they were in the Royal Navy.  This is a great pity as the lump sum payments are of a huge importance to sufferers and their families My clients use their lump sum, which usually comes through within a few weeks of diagnosis, to plan a holiday, pay off any debts, or to purchase any aids or equipment which may not be available on the NHS, such as a new bed or upright chair. Of course, some diagnosed with mesothelioma are still in work but now have the stop or scale back on their work due to their diagnosis and possible chemotherapy and so the lump sum payment certainly takes away some financial pressures."

"Clearly a lump sum payment is of huge importance to mesothelioma sufferers."

The rules were changed in December 2015 to allow veterans with mesothelioma to receive a lump sum payment as opposed to a monthly pension. But, the catch is that it is only available to servicemen who have been diagnosed on or after 16 December 2015.

"It is a great pity that the law has changed such that only those diagnosed since December last year may be entitled to the lump sum. The very same thing happened with the new Government Mesothelioma Payment Scheme, whereby only those who were diagnosed after 25 July 2012 could claim through this scheme if their past employers did not have any insurance cover. This upset many of my clients, as many were diagnosed shortly before the cut-off date and it seemed so harsh and cruel on top of the suffering they had already endured. Even a reduced lump sum payment from say July 2010 to July 2012 would have eased this sense of unfairness."

Unfairly Disadvantaged Compared to Civil Claimants

It also must be remembered that ex-service personnel are already at a disadvantage. "Crown Immunity" – the rule which prevented service personnel from making a claim against the Ministry of Defence, was removed in 1987 with the Crown Proceedings Act. This means that only those exposed to asbestos after 1987 can make a civil industrial disease claim.

Helen comments:

"It would be unusual to be exposed to asbestos dust whilst serving in the Navy during the late 1980’s. I have come across cases of late wrongful exposures to asbestos dust, however, the vast majority of exposures whilst serving in the Navy were during the 1950’s, 60’s and 70’s." 

"The current situation for veterans is clearly unfair and should be on a par with the Government Lump Sum payments for civilians and everyone else who is diagnosed with mesothelioma."

Calls for the Rules to Change

The MP for Blaydon, Dave Anderson has led a campaign requesting these rules to change. The letter said:

"We request that all qualifying veterans be treated equally, regardless of the date of their diagnosis with mesothelioma, as is morally required under the Armed Forces Covenant. We also request that the acquisition of equal treatment for both veterans and their widows/families, be pursued by ministers with all due haste, because people are dying."

Simpson Millar's Gateshead Office

Our specialist Mesothelioma Solicitors are on hand to offer legal advice from our well established team based in Gateshead. We support many people who have been left suffering with asbestos related illnesses who became ill from working at popular shipyard sites like the Tyne or from exposure to asbestos dust in many other places of employment.  A lot of our cases are for the family members of the dockyard worker who had exposure from laundering contaminated overalls, or simply hugging their loved ones.

It is also certainly the case that many people who have a smoking history and contract lung cancer always automatically and wrongly assume that their lung cancer is caused through smoking, however, this is not always the case and legal advice should be sought. Legal advice should also be sought for those veterans who have also suffered exposure in other places of employment before or after joining the Royal Navy.

If you have been diagnosed, or have lost a loved one to mesothelioma, lung cancer, or any other asbestos illness after being exposed to asbestos at work, we're happy to answer any questions you may have and to advise on whether you can make a claim.

For any further advice on the changes affecting veterans diagnosed with mesothelioma you can also contact the Welfare Officer at the Veterans Agency on 0141 224 2709.

Thursday, 16 April 2015

Thursday, 16 April 2015

Lingering Asbestos Spells Danger for Disabled 57-year-old

Despite a pre-Christmas report to a local council, a quantity of asbestos discovered in a Perthshire house has still not been cleared.

The presence at the Longforgan property of the exposed toxic material, a notorious carcinogen, gravely risks the health of the disabled resident, Fiona Low.

Reported before Christmas, says Resident

The asbestos was reported to Perth and Kinross Council in December 2014 by Ms Low, who has previously been diagnosed with emphysema and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Ms Low insists that to date no effort has been made by the authority to dispose of the material.

Ms Low's lung condition obliges the 57-year-old to sleep with her bedroom windows open, exposing her to the airborne asbestos.

Fibres are Dangerous when Inhaled

The material was once popular in the building trade for its insulation and fire-retardant properties. However, after inhalation of its fibres was proved to cause asbestosis and the inoperable cancer mesothelioma, asbestos was banned in the UK in 1999.

Council took a Month to Inspect

Ms Low first noticed the exposed asbestos when she was around the back of her house.

"I noticed that the soffit boards were broken," the householder said. "It took a month for someone to come out to us and the man from the council took one look at it and said it was asbestos and it was beginning to degrade."

Specialist Disposal Necessary

The council advised Mrs Low that the material would have to be disposed of by a specialist contractor. "That happened weeks ago but we are still waiting for them to come and haul it all out," she said.

"I've been on the phone to the council about 12 times since December. They don't seem to think it's a priority, but we do."

Ms Low explained that her lung condition forces her to sleep with her bedroom window open, through which fibres were entering. "We looked on the internet and the [asbestos fibres] that we saw online are very similar to these.

"I'm very angry because I thought that once they discovered it was asbestos it would be a priority job."

Is Money the Problem for Council?

Ms Low suggested the council's apparent reluctance to act promptly is financially driven. "I think they are waiting until the new budget in April, but I don't think that should happen. I can't wait that long, especially since I've been waiting since December."

Perth and Kinross Council said in a statement repairs would be undertaken "imminently" but that it did not hear of Ms Low's asbestos problem until well after Christmas.

"Perth and Kinross Council takes the complaints of this nature very seriously," a spokesperson said.

"The council arranged for the soffit boards, which are on the exterior of the building, to be inspected and sampled by a licensed asbestos consultant after the tenant contacted us in January."

Confirming the material as asbestos cement, the spokesperson added that since the asbestos is as yet undisturbed, it is not believed to constitute "an immediate danger".

Wednesday, 15 April 2015

Wednesday, 15 April 2015

Essex mesothelioma patient highlights dangers of asbestos

An acutely-ill Essex woman is looking to raise awareness of the dangers of contracting terminal diseases related to asbestos.

Annette Turnball is suffering from mesothelioma, a malignant cancer of the lung linings which can remain undetected for up to 50 years.

Regular asbestos exposure at work caused illness

During the 1970s, Mrs Turnball worked at a Harlow print factory, where the 63-year-old believes she was regularly exposed to toxic fibres.

Despite the 40-year gap, Mrs Turnball learned only last year she was suffering from mesothelioma, a variant of which struck down her husband at about the same period.

Long latency – then kills within months

Mesothelioma often kills within a few months of diagnosis, as Simpson Millar's head of industrial disease Emma Costin explained.

"It is provenly caused by the inhalation of fibres from asbestos, a building material once popular for its insulation and fire-retardant properties," Emma said.

"Although asbestos was banned in the UK in 1999, the material remains present in many thousands of old buildings and facilities, from shipyards and factories to domestic dwellings."

"Check your homes"

During the 1950s development of Harlow, asbestos was commonly used in the construction of industrial premises and houses. Now Mrs Turnball is pressing residents of the Essex new town and elsewhere to conduct thorough searches of their properties.

Disease dormant for 40 years

Mrs Turnball spoke of the shock she felt when she was diagnosed with mesothelioma.

"It was something that laid dormant for such a long time but it has now reared its ugly head 40 years later," Mrs Turnball said.

"It started off when I was breathing rapidly and I thought I had anxiety, but when I went to see a doctor I was told I had mesothelioma."

Describing the cancer as a silent killer for which no cure is available, Mrs Turnball added: "It is weakening my body and I'm having to use a walking frame to get around."

Awareness should be raised immediately

Mrs Turnball has received medical support from St Clare Hospice, which in January mounted a presentation afternoon designed to heighten knowledge of the dangers of mesothelioma.

Concerned that the disease could strike others in her family without warning, Mrs Turnball said: "Removing asbestos is expensive and difficult and everyone should be aware of how deadly it is. I want to raise awareness of this issue."

Thursday, 12 March 2015

Thursday, 12 March 2015

Asbestos implicated in auto worker's death

Mesothelioma related to asbestos inhalation was the cause of a former automobile factory employee's death, according to an Oxford coroner.

Oxfordshire Coroner's Court heard that Martin Cross, of Eynsham, discovered he had the fatal condition in July 2013.

Mr Cross died at Oxford's Sobell House Hospice in September 2014. The 70 year-old was among "at least" 8 reported cases of mesothelioma in Oxfordshire this year.

The coroner, Darren Salter, was told that Mr Cross worked at the Cowley car factory between 1968 and 1992.

Asbestos clearly present at work

In a witness statement made prior to his death Mr Cross asserted that the factory's service pipes "were all lined with asbestos".

"I remember seeing dust particles in the air," Mr Cross stated. "Colleagues and I would have breathed it in." He also remembered seeing asbestos in cleaning tunnels.

Industrial disease

Dr Najib Rahman, a consultant in respiratory medicine, confirmed that Mr Cross had suffered from mesothelioma.

Mr Salter said he was satisfied that Mr Cross had been exposed to asbestos when he worked on the Cowley assembly line from the 1960s until about the 1980s. "My conclusion is, therefore, industrial disease," Mr Salter recorded.

40-year latency

A spokesperson for Mini, Rebecca Baxter, told the inquest that BMW took over the Cowley plant from the Rover Group 20 years ago. Most of the asbestos exposures happened prior to this date. The typical latency period for mesothelioma can be as high as 40 years.

Between 1967 and 1986 the plant was run by the now long-defunct British Leyland.

"As much as possible has been done by [Mini] to make sure that the insurance companies of the site's previous owners receive any claims as quickly as possible and will continue to do so," Ms Baxter said.

Mortality to peak within 5 years?

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) previously estimated that between 2015 and 2020 asbestos-related deaths in Oxfordshire would peak. Such mortality would include workers at Cowley, at the Harwell nuclear plant and Didcot Power Station – all industrial complexes of the kind notorious for the presence of large quantities of asbestos.

Tuesday, 10 March 2015

Tuesday, 10 March 2015

Italy asbestos ruling could have wider consequences

A decision in a Rome courtroom relating to a Swiss-based building company could severely hinder activists tackling the use of asbestos around the world.

On Wednesday 10 December, the Italian supreme court quashed an 18-year prison sentence imposed on the ex-owner of Eternit, Stephan Schmidheiny.


Facing charges of environmental disaster, Mr Schmidheiny was found guilty in two previous cases of non-compliance with safety regulation.

However, the court ruled that a statute of limitations, now passed, invalidated further action. Eternit departed Italy some 25 years ago.

ECHR – the last resort?

Local unions and Afeva, which represents Italian victims of asbestos-related diseases, now plan to take the issue to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg.

A group of some 200 people, the majority from north-west Italy where thousands have died or become gravely ill with asbestos-related diseases, gathered in protest outside the court. Others arrived from Brazil, Belgium, Argentina, the US, Switzerland and Britain.

Legal precedent

Activists now fear that a legal precedent has been set that will be exploited by the asbestos industry.

Afeva leader Bruno Pesce said the sentence came as a shock. "It seems that thousands of deaths never existed. We can't stop our fight when people keep on dying every week. My country missed a chance to tell the world the truth. We still ask for justice."

Victims and activists from Brazil, the 3rd-largest asbestos producer in the world, are especially unhappy with the ruling. Brazil produces 300,000 tonnes per annum, mainly for roofs, plasterboard and industrial water tank linings.

São Paulo University researchers believe 10% of the world's asbestos-related deaths occur in Brazil. "It's time to put an end to this, otherwise 30 years from now this epidemic will increase, and will reach uncontrollable levels," Ubiratan de Paula Santos said.

"Criminal" say activists

The Asbestos Disease Awareness Organisation said money and power had won again. "Eternit’s flagrant disregard for public health and the environment is reprehensible and criminal," the US-based body's president, Linda Reinstein, said.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has estimated that some 125 million people remain occupationally exposed to asbestos. This leads to over 107,000 deaths each year, mainly from mesothelioma, an aggressive cancer of the lung linings, and asbestosis.

Kills within months

Mesothelioma, in particular, is typified by a latency period of up to 40 years. People who were exposed to asbestos fibres at work in the 60s might only now know they are suffering from the disease. Once diagnosed, however, mesothelioma can kill within months.

6 states in Brazil have banned asbestos. Yet in spite of WHO resolutions, the material is still a high-value commodity and Brazil remains a net exporter of chrysotile to the US.

Tuesday, 3 March 2015

Tuesday, 3 March 2015

"Asbestos to blame for my lung cancer" – Somerset woman

A Crewkerne woman says the asbestos dust present at a care unit in which she worked for 4 years caused her to contract lung cancer.

In December 2012, Doreen Gain was diagnosed with mesothelioma: a cancer of the lung lining which the 71 year-old thinks is a by-product of when she worked for the Bowhayes Lodge care home, in Crewkerne, from 1995 to 1998.

Deteriorating Health

In March 2014 Mrs Gain told local journalists that she believed washing asbestos fibres from her husband's work clothes could have caused the disease.

However, with Mrs Gain's health declining to such an extent she cannot breathe without an extra oxygen supply, further enquiries have revealed another possible reason.

"I remember the suspended ceiling [at Bowhayes] with the asbestos ceiling tiles," Mrs Gain said.

"Maintenance men had to move the tiles from time to time to access the service pipes behind the tiles and also to change the strip lights. I noticed that there were two maintenance men constantly working on the premises.

Regular Maintenance Work could have Disturbed Dust

"I also remember the maintenance men going in and out of the boiler house which is likely to have contained asbestos-lagged pipework… asbestos dust and fibres could have been transported around the premises."

Prior to its UK ban in 1999, use of asbestos was common in the building trade for the material's fire-retardant and insulation properties. Inhalation of the fibres, which can be disturbed during maintenance work in older buildings, is known to cause fatal diseases such as mesothelioma and asbestosis.

When Mrs Gain worked at Bowhayes, the facility's owner was South Somerset District Council. In 1999 the unit was transferred to Yarlington Housing Group.

Reassurance for Staff and Residents

Residents and staff of Bowhayes were assured that no asbestos is present at the Lodge.

Yarlington's health and safety manager Paul Bullows said that following testing, a report found that "no asbestos-containing materials" remained on the premises.

"There is no reason for residents to be concerned or worried that they are at risk from asbestos at Bowhayes Lodge," Mr Bullows said.