March 2019

By Liz Darlison, Head of Services and Clinical Nurse Specialist for Mesothelioma UK and Professor James Spicer, BTOG Steering Committee Member.

An Essential Update on mesothelioma, organised by the British Thoracic Oncology Group and Mesothelioma UK, was held in Birmingham on 11th March 2019. The meeting was well attended by nurses, oncologists, chest physicians, surgeons and others involved in the care of patients with this relatively uncommon cancer. Patient advocates were present and we were delighted to see them actively participating.  Mesothelioma UK held a Professional Forum for the charity’s growing team of specialist nurses, alongside the meeting, enabling 22 of them to attend the Essential Update.

Mesothelioma is closely associated with exposure to asbestos, and although the use of this material has been tightly controlled since the 1970s, unfortunately the diagnosis is more common in the UK than in any other part of the world. This is because asbestos was particularly widely used in building and engineering in this country. Its residual presence in older buildings partly accounts for why we continue to see too many cases today, decades after asbestos control came into force. Also relevant is the very long latency period typically seen between exposure and the disease emerging.

At the meeting, recent developments in the organisation of mesothelioma care in the NHS were reviewed, including the regional specialist Multidisciplinary Team Meetings, and the National Mesothelioma Audit of clinical activity and outcomes. Research teams from around the country shared their plans and experience, studying everything from the genomics of the disease, to new developments in treatment. Active research programmes in Cambridge, Glasgow, London, Bristol and Leicester were presented and discussed. A highlight was an update on recruitment to the national MARS2 randomised surgical trial, which is recruiting very effectively and expected to be complete within a year. This trial is likely to have a global impact in this controversial area of care.

Treatment of mesothelioma often requires input from experts in symptom control, social support, drug treatment, radiotherapy and surgery. The multidisciplinary nature of both faculty and audience was reflected in a lively discussion of real clinical cases in the final session of the meeting.