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Fieldfisher hosts Spotlight on Immunotherapy Conference 2017

On Tuesday 5th September over 50 delegates attended Fieldfisher's conference discussing the fast-paced developments in immunotherapy treatment for mesothelioma victims. Guests included legal professionals, medical practitioners and sufferers of mesothelioma.

Senior Associate Dushal Mehta chaired the event, and our excellent speakers gave those attending a range of insightful presentations. Topics covered the latest research into immunotherapy treatment, the work of mesothelioma charities and the perspective of those that have successfully had this treatment or are still undergoing it.

The following are highlights from each of the presentations at the conference.

Dr Peter Szlosarek

Clinical Senior Lecturer at Bart's Cancer Institute

Dr Szlosarek presented his research into immunotherapy for mesothelioma sufferers and outlined the trials available for chemotherapy, immunotherapy, surgery and radiotherapy. He highlighted that melanoma and mesothelioma cancers share similarities, and the encouraging developments of immunotherapy treatment for melanoma have led to trials starting for its use
against mesothelioma.

In one of Dr Szlosarek's trials, he is combining an immunotherapy drug with chemotherapy. This combination shows promise and is seemingly more effective at treating mesothelioma. He also provided useful information covering the various types of immunotherapy drugs and the different phases of clinical trials.

Professor Angus Dalgleish

Professor of Oncology at St Georges' University Hospital of London

Professor Dalgleish followed Dr Szlosarek, presenting his research into melanoma immunotherapy treatment and how to apply this to the treatment of mesothelioma. An interesting observation he has made during his work is how important vitamin D3 is for patients undergoing immunotherapy treatment. He explains that for the treatment to be effective a patient should have sufficient levels of vitamin D3 and also recommends they take anti-inflammatories.

Professor Dalgleish then went on to cover the topic of PD-L1, a protein that can cause tumour cells to evade detection by the immune system. A positive PD-L1 level (tumor proportion score ≥1%) is required for a person to be considered suitable for immunotherapy treatment; however, he called into question the reliability of tests that show a negative PD-L1 level. Currently, the data from PD-L1 tests show that 55% of people have a negative PD-L1 level and 45% have a positive level.

Mavis Nye

Mavis Nye gave a talk recounting her experience of living with mesothelioma and the treatment she had undergone. Mavis had been diagnosed with mesothelioma eight years ago, and the cause of developing this disease was probably asbestos she had inhaled while washing her husband's work clothes.

After her diagnosis, she underwent four years of chemotherapy and then decided she wanted to try immunotherapy. After two different phases of immunotherapy spanning four more years, she finally received the all-clear from mesothelioma. Mavis still requires x-rays every two months to ensure that the mesothelioma hasn't returned, but she now leads a full and happy life, running  her foundation to raise funds for mesothelioma research.

Anne Moylan

Clinical Nurse Specialist for Mesothelioma UK

Anne provided an update on the charity's work over the last few years. She explained that Mesothelioma UK has been going from strength to strength since its founding. Currently, they are funding 18 mesothelioma nurses with more planned in the near future.

Anne highlighted the valuable work Mesothelioma UK does. Their helpline deals with over 2,500 calls each year, and they have funded research projects, donating £150,000 to medical research and £25,000 for specific nurse-led projects. The charity is continuing to grow by employing a welfare benefits advisor and creating specific assistance for those who have developed mesothelioma due to military service.

Pamela Stubberfield

Fieldfisher client Mrs Stubberfield had a question and answer session with Partner Andrew Morgan. She gave us an intimate insight into the impact on her life and the costs of her immunotherapy treatment that started in April 2017.
Mrs Stubberfield explained that she had to finance the early part of her treatment herself. At an interim court hearing, Andrew Morgan was able to secure a £14,000 repayment. Both the case and immunotherapy treatment is ongoing, and as the NHS will not fund Mrs Stubberfield's treatment, securing funding via her civil case is vital.

Peter Williams

Head of Asbestos Claims at Fieldfisher

Fieldfisher's Peter Williams presented the final talk of the day. Due to its cost, immunotherapy is not available on the NHS. Peter provided his experience of recovering these costs as part of a civil claim and where the difficulties lie. He detailed the steps that have been taken to obtain funding for the treatment.

Reclaiming costs for immunotherapy is not straightforward. The total cost of treatment is often unknown at the point of settlement, though it is likely to be high and beyond the means of most claimants. Very few cases have included the cost of immunotherapy so far and so to date there is no absolute solution.

Despite this, Fieldfisher has already recovered compensation for immunotherapy treatment in several cases. By creating a new law in the future, we aim to ensure that cases can settle with protection for the Claimant that the Defendants will continue to pay for the ongoing treatment on an indefinite basis.

Fieldfisher would like to thank all those who attended for making the conference a thought-provoking and inspiring experience.

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