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Health Services: Asbestos

Volume 508: debated on Thursday 25 March 2010

To ask the Secretary of State for Health what recent progress his Department has made towards establishing a network of research practitioners for asbestos-related diseases. (324093)

The written ministerial statement my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Justice and Lord Chancellor (Mr. Straw) made on 25 February, Official Report columns 79-83WS, expressed the Government's determination to expand research in the area of asbestos related disease.

Our first priority is to take steps to build research capacity, particularly in mesothelioma research. The Department will work to that end with the British Lung Foundation and others with a particular interest. The initiative will be supported by a donation of £3 million from the Association of British Insurers.

The National Cancer Research Institute (NCRI) has a central role to play in maintaining strategic oversight of cancer research in the United Kingdom. The institute reported in 2006 on the state of lung cancer research. I believe the time is right for the institute to undertake a fresh review of mesothelioma research. I will write to Sir Kenneth Caiman, the Chair of the Institute, asking him to initiate such a review, and to report on its findings by the end of the summer.

The mesothelioma sub-group of the NCRI's lung cancer clinical studies group has an important role in the development of clinical trials. We will ensure the contribution the sub-group has to make is maximised.

The outcome of the NCRI review and other developments will underpin the future strategies and work of the Institute's partner funders, and will help develop the potential to drive an increase in research investment in mesothelioma and other asbestos related

disease research, and will inform the Government's longer term approach. Progress on all this will be reported in the autumn.