Asbestos Cancers and immunology

Australia has the highest incidence of asbestos cancers in the world with more than 10,000 people dying since the 1980’s1.

With the location of the closed Wittenoom Asbestos mine in Western Australia, and therefore many asbestos cancer sufferers now in Perth, Bruce has conducted a special medical clinic to care for asbestos victims and their families and worked with community/consumer support activities, including the Asbestos Diseases Society of Australia and the Bernie Banton Foundation.


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To try to reduce the death rate from asbestos cancers Bruce co-leads a strong research program at the University of Western Australia. He also co-established, and now directs, the National Centre for Asbestos Related Diseases (NCARD – www.ncard.org), a national cooperative.

Their current goal is to cure asbestos cancers by developing new treatments and early detection methods, including ‘cracking their DNA code’.

The team are the acknowledged world leaders in this field with international impact, making many world-first discoveries, including

  • the first blood test for mesothelioma
  • at least 10 world-first treatment trials
  • leading a push to ‘crack the code’ of mesothelioma by sequencing its DNA, with the possibility of finding new treatments.
  • co-founding the peak international mesothelioma group, IMIG and undertaking asbestos education/research in Asia through NCARD’s Australia-Asia Asbestos Research Co-operative.

The work has provided direct clinical help to the victims of asbestos cancers and hope to those who have been exposed to asbestos (statistically around 2 million in Australia are worried that they may develop an asbestos disease).

Professor Robinson’s team are the world leaders in the field of mesothelioma research.Dr VC Broaddus, Chief of Pulmonary, San Francisco, USA

This work has had extra reach via BBC news, ABC Catalyst, Four Corners, TV Evening News (all states) plus 32 radio interviews and 28 newspaper articles. In addition to the scientific and medical/social (treatment and hope for victims, families) listed above, this work has major economic impacts because the actuarial asbestos compensation bill is over $300 billion worldwide, their early diagnosis and therapy approaches are predicted to save $$billions.
Publications arising from the research include:

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Tumour Immunology/immunotherapy
The Tumour Immunology Group (TIG) was established in mid 1984 with a focus on learning how the body responds to the presence of cancer and how this can help in diagnosis or therapy. The main areas of interest have been tumour antigen cross presentation, tumour specific neo-antigenic responses, chemoimmunotherapy, checkpoint blockade with chemotherapy and preclinical trialling of novel immunotherapies with surgery or other existing standard modalities of therapy.

Clinical trials
We have conducted numerous tumour immunotherapy trials, eg. the chemo-immunotherapy of lung cancer and mesothelioma (recombinant agonistic antiCD40 in combination with chemotherapy, how chemotherapy affects the human anti-cancer response), immunotherapy of mesothelioma and lung cancer (autologous tumour obtained by surgical resection, administered as a vaccine subcutaneusly with recombinant GM-CSF, recombinant human IL2 plus autologous LAK cells in pleural tumours, systematic alpha 2a and alpha 2b interferon +/- adriamcin, continuous intralesional infusion of recombinant human cytokines (IFN2b, GM-CSF), gene therapy using vaccinia-IL2 constructs, intratumorally).

Our group aims are to:

  • Conduct high quality research into host immunology, in particular host anti-tumour immune responses and mesothelioma.
  • Develop and conduct clinical trials in cancer patients, in particular using immunotherapy approaches.
  • Publish our work in the highest impact factor journals.
  • Provide a stimulating scientific environment for scientists, clinicians and students.
  • Keep up to date in recent development in our field through journal clubs, data presentations, seminars and visit by senior scientists.
  • Work together in our scientific endeavours by freely sharing our knowledge and experience, assisting each other in pursuing our scientific goals.
  • Perform all our work to the highest standards of ethical behaviour. 
Fact Sheets
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Books
Mesothelioma (2002) – Published by Martin Dunitz, Edited by Bruce WS Robinson and A Phillipe Chahinian
With contributions from many international experts. Mesothelioma is a state-of-the-art review of mesothelioma, from laboratory to the bedside, diagnostic procedures to treatment and from imaging and early detection to medico-legal issues.

Immunopathology of Lung Disease (1996) – Published by Butterworth-Heinemann (Boston), Edited by Richard L. Kradin, Bruce WS Robinson. 
A review on pulmonary immune response, T-cell migration to the lung, pulmonary macrophages and dendritic cells, and immunological lung diseases; asthma, sarcoidosis, idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis-cryptogenic fibrosing alveolitis, and infectious diseases.

1. http://archive.uninews.unimelb.edu.au/news/5164/index.html

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