Mesothelioma research to help victims of asbestos exposure was highlighted recently by a victim of the fatal asbestosis disease who competed in the 2012 Tour de France, in which Bradley Wiggins became the first ever British winner in the entire 99 year history of the legendary cycling race.

Wiggins was also honoured when he rang the huge bell at the start of the opening ceremony of the London 2012 Olympics, which is to be followed by the London Paralympics on the 29 August.

Advances in medical research have helped to increase the life expectancy of the victims of the incurable fatal cancer, which develops in the linings of the lung or the abdomen. However, there is usually an exceptionally long latency period of up to 50 years or more from when the asbestos fibres are first inhaled to the appearance of mesothelioma or asbestosis symptoms.

Consequently, when a confirmed diagnosis is made, the disease is likely to have spread to an advanced stage, and life expectancy is often no more than 6 to 12 months. Increasingly, mesothelioma patients can survive for up to two years or more if the disease is caught early enough and a combination of asbestosis treatments succeed in reducing and slowing its spread.

There are occasions when individual patients defy the usual prognosis. This was the incredible case for Malcolm Davison, a 71 year old grandad from Leeds who rode in the ‘Cingles du Mont Ventoux’, a 136km leg of the 2012 Tour de France singled out as one of the tougher routes of the race, involving a 6 hour climb followed by a descent with speeds of up to 80km (40 miles) per hour.

After an initial diagnosis of prostate cancer in 2007, mesothelioma was then discovered in January 2011, and it was expected that survival would be not extend beyond a few months. However, having completed the same part of the route thirteen times previously, Davison – nicknamed ‘Mad Mal’ – decided to make his fourteenth attempt – which would raise asbestos awareness and money for The Prostate Cancer Charity and the June Hancock Mesothelioma Research Fund.

After completing the route in a gruelling eight hours and 40 minutes, and cycling in 42C of heat, Malcolm expressed his “determination to keep going” and not only prove that he had not been beaten by the illness but also to raise funds which will help other cancer sufferers.

With some 4,000 asbestos disease related deaths still recorded annually in the UK, including over 2,000 cases of mesothelioma, Malcolm Davison’s words can only be bring a tremendous source of hope and comfort at this particular time when sporting aspiration is highlighted around the world.