Asbestos and Dust Diseases Research Institute
Australia was among the highest consumers of asbestos-containing materials globally due to our unenviable history of extensive mining and the wide-spread use of asbestos in the manufacture of thousands of products and building materials. Although a complete national ban came into force on 31 December 2003, since the 1920s, asbestos-containing materials had been embedded in Australia’s environment, concealed in schools, workplaces and in 1-in-3 Australian homes built or renovated before 1987. When these materials are exposed and disturbed, and fibres are released that can be inhaled, the health of Australian’s is at risk. With this tragic legacy signalling fears of a pending epidemic of asbestos and dust-related diseases, in 2009 the Asbestos and Dust Diseases Research Institute (ADDRI) was opened in the Bernie Banton Centre, a purpose built, state-of-the-art facility to address public health concerns surrounding the growing number of incidences of asbestos and dust-related diseases. Between 1982 and 2015, 15,884 Australians were diagnosed with malignant mesothelioma while tens of thousands more have been diagnosed with other forms of asbestos and dust-related diseases. Today, Australia has one of the highest incidences of asbestos and dust-related diseases in the world per capita with more than 700 new cases of malignant mesothelioma recorded in Australia every year. There is no cure and current treatments to preserve and extend life are limited with the majority of patients losing their lives within nine-to-twelve months following diagnosis.
In response to this national health crisis, ADDRI’s ultimate goal is to save lives through investing our sustained, concerted efforts into three priority areas; laboratory research, clinical sciences, prevention and public health. Working with medical specialists and health services, our dedicated research teams have built a formidable record for developing a best-practice diagnostic framework for earlier detection; improved understanding of mesothelioma; ground-breaking treatments to prolong life; and, invested in prevention to alert the community to the risks of exposure to asbestos fibres. As long as asbestos and harmful dust remain among us posing a significant threat to public health, the ADDRI will continue our pursuit in the prevention of life-threatening asbestos and dust-related diseases and invest our concerted efforts in the development of a life-saving cure for malignant mesothelioma.
Fighting the Epidemic
With the aim of making mesothelioma history, the ADDRI continues to conduct preclinical (basic), clinical and epidemiological research into asbestos-related diseases with findings enabling improved methods of prevention, diagnostic, therapeutic procedures and treatments. In the laboratory, ADDRI’s researchers are working on a variety of molecular and biological techniques. These techniques are being applied to blood and tissue specimens stored in the ADDRI Biobank with promising new therapeutic approaches being converted into clinical practice to improve outcomes for patients diagnosed with asbestos and dust-related disease.
However, ADDRI’s work is not limited to the research laboratory. Our national focus on prevention and public health includes patient support, advocacy and increasing awareness aimed at preventing future exposure to asbestos in the workplace, community and the home. Internationally regarded as a leader in our field, the ADDRI contributes to the assessment of the global burden of asbestos and dust-related diseases and advocates for an international ban on asbestos with a primary focus on the prevention of disease in developing countries.