The Asbestos Diseases Research Institute (ADRI), located in the
Bernie Banton Centre, Concord NSW was officially opened by the
then Prime Minister, the Hon. Kevin Rudd in January 2009. With
Australia having one of the highest incidences of asbestos cancers
in the world, the ADRI was established by the Asbestos Diseases Research Foundation (a charitable not-for-profit organisation) as Australia’s only purpose built research facility dedicated to preventing asbestos related diseases.
The ADRI’s primary objectives are to:
Conduct research into asbestos related diseases to provide a better future for all Australians diagnosed with asbestos related illness
Be instrumental in promoting effective preventative measures to avoid Australians being unnecessarily exposed to asbestos fibres
With the establishment of the ADRI as the first stand-alone research institute dedicated to tackling this silent and still increasing epidemic, Australia has taken a vital step forward in the international fight against asbestos related diseases.
Malignant mesothelioma (MM) almost uniquely caused by asbestos exposure
was seldom diagnosed until the 1960’s. According to Safe Work Australia, in
2007, 660 Australians were diagnosed with malignant mesothelioma and
experts have estimated that there were at least another 1,350 Australians with
lung cancer caused by asbestos. A tragic consequence of highly intensive
use of asbestos and its products in Australia in the previous century, it is
estimated that these figures will continue to rise in the coming decades.
MM is a disease that develops several years after the first exposure to asbestos
fibres. However, the disease is currently also diagnosed in young adults
incidentally exposed to asbestos fibres as children. The fact that approximately
1/3 of older Australian homes built or renovated before 1985 contain asbestos,
reinforces the significance of Australians undertaking adequate preventive measures.
The prognosis of MM patients is poor and almost all will experience severely debilitating symptoms. MM is only partially responding to the current forms of oncologic therapy and currently there is no curative treatment for the disease. It is therefore critical that we make a substantial investment in medical research to find better means of understanding the specific biology of MM in order to try to achieve better clinical outcomes for people affected by the disease.
Why invest in research in Malignant Mesothelioma? When compared to other frequently diagnosed cancers such as breast cancer and melanoma, MM has been under-studied. However, outcomes of research conducted into MM provide excellent opportunities for insights into cancer that can be widely applied. For example:
The carcinogen is known: For most solid human malignancies, the actual carcinogen is not known (even for cigarette smoke where multiple carcinogens have been implicated). The single dominant carcinogen for the development of MM is asbestos. Therefore, its role can be followed in studies ranging from the laboratory to epidemiological studies.
At-risk cohorts can be identified and followed: One of the keys to studying populations at risk of cancer is to be able to identify those at highest risk. Because individuals who have been exposed to high levels of asbestos are at (high) risk of developing MM (e.g., occupational exposure), these individuals can be followed prospectively over decades in screening/biomarker studies.
High quality animal models exist: Animal models of MM pathogenesis and treatment can be studied and translated into novel therapies for MM patients.
Novel treatments are desperately needed: The options for current standard treatment are limited and new agents can be investigated relatively easily.
Common responsibility: MM as a man-made disease that not only asks for responsibility from employers and legislators, but also from Australian society that as a whole, has permitted intensive asbestos use in the past