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Clinical trial offers hope to people afflicted with cancer caused by asbestos

Mesothelioma usually follows asbestos inhalation (Stephen Pond/PA)
Mesothelioma usually follows asbestos inhalation (Stephen Pond/PA)

Cancer patients in Scotland are being offered new hope with the launch of a clinical trial for a form of the disease linked to asbestos exposure, a charity has announced.

The MITOPE trial, sponsored by the company RS Oncology, could lead to a new treatment for mesothelioma, a cancer which usually follows the inhalation of asbestos fibres and can take more than 40 years to develop, according to Cancer Research UK.

The cancer, which commonly starts in tissue covering the lungs, is particularly common among men on the west coast of Scotland, where asbestos was manufactured and used in heavy industries like ship-building between 1950 and 1980.

Each year, the area accounts for about half of all cases of the disease in Scotland, according to Public Health Scotland figures.

Professor Kevin Blyth, of the University of Glasgow, who leads the Predict-Meso network which aims to develop treatments for mesothelioma, said: “The dark legacy of asbestos has had a long and painful impact on the people of Glasgow and the west coast of Scotland where incidence rates of mesothelioma are significantly higher than the Scottish average.

“Mesothelioma is a particularly difficult cancer to treat so we are hopeful that this trial, if successful, could offer a new effective treatment option for patients here in Scotland and across the UK.

“We are also hoping to develop similar trials involving direct treatment into the pleural space through our Cancer Research UK-funded network.”

Patients accepted onto this phase two trial will have access to RSO-021, a new cancer treatment, after a phase one trial previously established an effective and safe dose of the drug for patients.

RSO-021 is a targeted drug which, preclinical studies have shown, can selectively kill malignant cells while sparing healthy cells.

RS Oncology CEO Jarrett Duncan said: “RSO-021 is an exciting, novel, anti-cancer treatment that can potentially help a global population of cancer patients who are left with little to no options.

“Commencing the phase two portion of our trial presents a major milestone for patients and their caregivers.”

Only about four in 10 people (44.3%) who are diagnosed with mesothelioma in Scotland survive their disease for one year or more, according Public Health Scotland figures.

The MITOPE trial aims to deliver treatment directly into the pleural space, the cavity between the lungs and underneath the chest wall, where mesothelioma most commonly develops.

The two-year trial is being offered to eligible patients across Scotland.

Predict-Meso is a £5 million, six-year, international network of researchers, co-funded by Cancer Research UK, which is focused on better understanding mesothelioma, and finding new and better treatments for the disease.