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United Front

Byline: Audrey Forbes Evening Gazette (Middlesbrough, England), February 27, 2006

Cancer patients on Teesside are today backing a major campaign to raise awareness of a deadly form of asbestos-related disease.

The Northeast Asbestos Support & Awareness Group (NASAG) is championing Action Mesothelioma Day, organised by the British Lung Foundation and asbestos support groups throughout the UK.

The aim of today's event is to highlight the plight of people diagnosed with mesothelioma, a terminal cancer caused by exposure to asbestos.

The disease hit the headlines recently when cancer patients on Teesside won their fight to be treated with pioneering cancer drug Alimta.

Jeff Hurrell, 58, of Norton, diagnosed with mesothelioma last May, is one of those now being treated.

The dad-of-four welcomed the campaign day, saying: "This cancer is one that can be prevented totally with more thought and awareness."

He believes work should focus on removing asbestos from all buildings.

"Mesothelioma is only contracted through asbestos inhalation," he said. "If we remove the potential killer then the disease will be prevented."

Teesside, with its history of heavy industries, accounts for 10pc of mesothelioma deaths in the country.

Like Jeff, fellow sufferer Bernard Hoyland, 63, of Marske, began having Alimta in London before the NHS on Teesside agreed to fund the drug here.

It didn't shrink his tumour, so he has started on a cocktail of three drugs which he hopes could give him another three to four months to live.

"I'm hoping theses drugs will extend my life," he said. "There is still no cure. I'm aiming for whatever time I can get.

"It's my 64th birthday in April so that's my goal. I won't be around for my 65th."

Bernard still travels the ten-hour round trip to London for the treatment as one of the drugs isn't available up here.

"The drugs need to be made accessible for everyone," he said. "Why should one get it and another not?

"More work needs to be done to prevent the disease in the first place."

NASAG has dealt with over 80 individuals with asbestos-related disease, 50 from the Teesside and Cleveland area.

Tom Carden of NASAG said: "We must develop a robust strategy to deal with the issue of asbestos in a way that minimises exposure to everyone."