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Hope for mesothelioma sufferers as immunotherapy breakthrough gathers momentum

Sunday Times restaurant critic A A Gill, who sadly died from lung cancer last year, was among the first to shine the public spotlight on ground-breaking cancer therapy that may provide hope for mesothelioma patients.

Gill tragically was unable to receive the immunotherapy drug Nivolumab recommended by his oncologist because it was not then available on the NHS and the cost was prohibitive privately.

NICE approval

Following trials, however, the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) has now approved the drug, mainly for the treatment of melanoma and some lung cancers. Immunotherapy stimulates the body's immune system to fight cancer cells and early evidence suggests it can prolong the life of cancer sufferers.

Although more trials are being conducted and more evidence is needed, the mesothelioma team is hopeful that immunotherapy treatment using the drug Pembrolizumab (Keytruda) will soon be approved by the NHS for patients suffering from asbestos cancer.

As it stands currently, we now routinely seek to cover the costs of the treatment privately from the defendant in all our claims on behalf of mesothelioma patients.

Positive stories

At a very successful immunotherapy conference held at the Fieldfisher offices this month, 50 delegates including legal and medical practitioners and mesothelioma patients discussed developments in the treatment and heard from some who have experienced positive outcomes, including Mavis Nye who has had exceptional results.

Mavis was diagnosed with mesothelioma eight years ago, probably caused by inhaling asbestos dust while washing her husband's work clothes.

Following four years of chemotherapy, Mavis then decided to try two phases of immunotherapy spanning a further four years and has now 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.

Fieldfisher client Pamela Stubberfield had a question and answer session with Partner Andrew Morgan, offering insight into 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.

Dr Peter Szlosarek, a clinical senior lecturer at Bart's Cancer Institute, presented his research into immunotherapy for mesothelioma sufferers and outlined the trials available for chemotherapy, immunotherapy, surgery and radiotherapy. He discussed how 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.

Enthused by this ongoing research, we will continue to fight for the best treatment for all our mesothelioma clients.

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