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Governor-General supports asbestos disease research

Institute leads research into treatment and cure for mesothelioma.

SydneyConnect Video: Governor-General and Mrs Hurley visit Asbestos Diseases Research Institute

Sonja Klebe and her team have a big goal.

“We can contribute to reducing the burden of asbestos-related disease for Australia,” Associate Professor Klebe said.

She is the new Research Director at The Asbestos Diseases Research Institute which is based in the Concord Hospital grounds.

Australia has one of the highest incidences of asbestos-related diseases in the world per capita, with more than 700 new cases of malignant mesothelioma recorded every year.

There is no cure. Current treatments focus on improving patients’ quality of life, but most of them lose their lives within nine to 12 months following diagnosis.

“The Asbestos Diseases Research Institute is best positioned to make a difference to patient outcomes,” Associate Professor Klebe said.

One of her first jobs in her new role, was to lead a tour of the Institute’s facilities for its patron Governor-General David Hurley and Mrs Hurley.  

“To me, it’s like a big detective game. You’ve got all these clues and you’re trying to work it out,” the former Chief of the Australian Defence Force said.

“It’s hard science… with the aim one day that we [will be able to] identify [the disease] early, have a range of treatments for the individual and a cure to allow the person to lead a fruitful life.”

During his military career, he led a two year program to rid the ADF of asbestos in its inventory — whether it be spare parts, on a base or a warship – which sparked his interest in the impact of asbestos on the community.

Since the Institute opened in 2009, it has pioneered bio-medical, clinical, public health and community programs to help eliminate asbestos-related diseases.

Last year, the World Health Organisation named the Institute a Collaborating Centre for the Elimination of Asbestos Related Diseases making it the first of its kind in the world.

Sydney Local Health District’s Chief Executive Dr Teresa Anderson sits on the Board of the Asbestos Disease Research Foundation — which was set up to support the Institute.

“I’m absolutely confident that we’re going to find a cure. We want to be able to prevent it and also provide the best interventions for those people who have suffered from mesothelioma and other asbestos-related diseases,” Dr Anderson said.

“We look forward to sharing our breakthroughs with you,” she said.