A Kiwi professor has developed a new treatment which may be the answer to helping those diagnosed with the incurable disease: asbestos lung cancer.
Associate Professor at the University of Sydney Medical School, New Zealander Dr Glen Reid, has spent the past few years working on research into a new treatment for mesothelioma - lung cancer caused by exposure to asbestos.
Dubbed TargomiRs, the treatment uses tiny cells loaded with a microRNA which is deficient in mesothelioma, a statement says. Those tiny cells are then administered to a patient as they sit in a chemotherapy chair in a bid to restore the body's natural tumour-suppressing mechanisms.
Although the treatment is still in its very early stages and therefore requires multiple tests, a trial on one Sydney man has led to dramatic and encouraging results.
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The man, 51-year-old Bradley Selmon, has been exposed to asbestos for many years during his work as a plumber. He was diagnosed with mesothelioma in 2013 and decided to enter Dr Reid's trial after he stopped responding to chemotherapy treatment.
Within two months, his tumours had "virtually vanished.''
"The pain stopped. All of a sudden I could yawn without restriction. Now, I can go bushwalking and walk up steep steps - anything I want to do,'' he said.
Tests showed his lung functionality was now "pretty normal'' and he felt that the trial had saved his life.
Mr Selmon's oncologist - Dr Steven Kao of the Chris O'Brien Lifehouse cancer centre in Sydney - praised the results, saying his patient's mesothelioma was now almost invisible.
Professor Reid's work and results will today be published in the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine.
He said: "If it works in more patients, this treatment has the potential for a paradigm shift in the management of other treatment-resistant tumors.''