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  • Writer's pictureKirk Hartley

Let’s Go More Molecular in Asbestos Litigation: Gordon & Reese Says: “The HPV-Lung

Gordon & Reese put out a May 31, 2016 blog post indicating asbestos defendants in non-smoker  lung cancer cases may want to argue tumors arose from HPV instead of asbestos if molecular pathology indicates the presence of a strain of HPV known as P16.  It’s interesting to see this type of molecular testing argument making its way into the litigation, and to see the virus identified as a possible co-factor. The entire post should be read, but the closing paragraph is set out below:

“Given the substantial increase in asbestos-related lung cancer civil case filings over the past five years, the hypothesis, if ultimately proven, could result in novel new claims by both plaintiffs and defendants in the litigation. This issue has already arisen in a recent California case, in which a core needle biopsy of the lung tumor of the plaintiff was obtained and reviewed by two defense pathologists. Administering an accepted immuno-histochemical test to that tumor tissue, the pathologists found it to be positive for P16, signifying the presence of the HPV in the tumor. From that, both experts were prepared to opine that the presence of the HPV in this plaintiff more probably than not caused or contributed to her cancer. The literature discussed above was part of the scientific basis they were prepared to point to in support of their conclusion. Therefore, while more research may be indicated, in lung cancer cases for which tumor tissue is available, defense counsel may want to consider if testing for the presence of HPV is indicated.”

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