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The approval of new immunotherapy drugs offers new hope for mesothelioma sufferers

Senior asbestos lawyer comments on news that Nivolumab will now be available for lung cancer patients

Posted on 22 September 2017

The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) has approved the use of immunotherapy drug Nivolumab (also named Opdivo) for use on eligible lung cancer patients.  This follows the approval of another immunotherapy drug, Pembrolizumab (also called Keytruda) last December.
Whilst this is good news for many lung cancer sufferers, NICE do not offer similar funding for mesothelioma sufferers.  

Mesothelioma is an aggressive form of cancer caused exclusively by asbestos. Mesothelioma is distinguished from lung cancer by the fact it affects the lining of the lungs (also called pleura) as opposed to the lungs themselves.  All types of lung cancer can be caused by asbestos but it is often harder to prove the link with asbestos exposure given lung cancer can be caused by other factors such as smoking.  

Leigh Day has a specialist team of leading lawyers who are experienced in progressing claims for both mesothelioma and lung cancer victims where they have suffered past asbestos exposure.
With the exception of the relatively small number of mesothelioma sufferers who were able to take part in a clinical trial (there are currently phase 3 trials under way in respect of both the above treatments), mesothelioma sufferers have no option but to pay for this treatment privately. 

Such treatment can be expensive costing about £8,000 per cycle of treatment.  With sufferers going through anything from six cycles upwards, the costs typically run to tens of thousands of pounds.
For those advancing a legal claim, a sufferer can seek to recover these costs from the defendant in those proceedings.  Therefore, Leigh Day have on numerous occasions successfully claimed these costs where a sufferer is eligible for treatment.
These drugs work by targeting a protein in the cancer cells called PD1. This protein binds to another protein called PDL1, which prevents the body's own immune system from attacking the tumour.  By targeting these proteins, the sufferer's own immune system is better able to target and kill mesothelioma cells.  A patient will not be considered suitable for treatment unless they have received chemotherapy.  Also, to consider whether a sufferer will benefit from treatment, they normally undergo a test to determine their PDL1 status.  If this is positive, a sufferer will have a better chance of benefiting, but even if their status is negative, they could still benefit from receiving this treatment.
Many patients who've undergone immunotherapy have experienced a substantial increase in their life expectancy, which of course means that they have more precious time to spend with their family.
Vijay Ganapathy commented:
"It is clear these treatments offer new hope for many mesothelioma sufferers.  When the trials are complete, it is hoped that they will be approved nationally for use with mesothelioma victims which would improve the prognosis of many sufferers.  We consider pursuing immunotherapy costs in all cases where appropriate to make sure our clients get treatment which might otherwise not be available to them.”