Hope for asbestos sufferers in old diabetes drug

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Tom ZaunmayrPilbara News
VideoThe story behind Australia's biggest known suburban asbestos contamination, according to the experts

A team of West Australian researchers are hopeful an old drug used to treat diabetes could prevent asbestos-related cancer for tens of thousands of asbestos-exposed Australians.

Researchers from Sir Charles Gairdner Hospital, Curtin University and University of Western Australia followed about 4,500 asbestos-exposed participants and found those taking metformin had a lower risk of developing mesothelioma or lung cancer.

The study found metformin appeared to slow the growth of some tumour cells.

WA Asbestos Review Program clinical lead Professor Fraser Brims said the early signs were promising.

“It’s too early to draw any clear conclusions but the findings have been positive so far, and definitely warrant further investigation,” he said.

Mr Brims said the next step was to undertake research to determine if the results are true and understand how metformin works.

Two new mesothelioma cases are diagnosed in Australia every day and experts predict the cancer could kill 25,000 Australians in the next 40 years.

Professor Allan Glanville said the medical industry urgently needed tools to prevent this.

“Most of the individuals exposed to asbestos were just doing their job and now they face a death sentence,” he said.

“We owe it to them to do better.

“If this drug can prevent asbestos-related cancers, it could be revolutionary.”

The research is being presented at the Australia and New Zealand Annual Scientific Meeting for Leaders in Lung Health and Respiratory Science on the Gold Coast today.

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