News in brief: Anti-CD33 therapy reimbursed for AML; ANZCHOG statement on COVID-19 vax  for children with blood cancer; Males in denial about gender-biased peer review


Anti-CD33 therapy reimbursed for AML

Gemtuzumab ozogamicin (Mylotarg) is being listed on the PBS from 1 March 2022 for the treatment of patients with previously untreated de novo CD33-positve AML, except acute promyelocytic leukaemia, who do not have a unfavourable cytogenetic profile.

At its November 2021 meeting, the PBAC said it was satisfied that gemtuzumab ozogamicin in combination with standard intensive chemotherapy provides, for some patients, a significant improvement in efficacy over standard of care.

Minister for Health and Aged Care, Greg Hunt, said around 900 Australians each year are diagnosed with AML.

“The PBS listing of Mylotarg will benefit around 60 Australians each year, who without PBS subsidy may pay around $18,000 per course of treatment,” he said..

“Instead, from March 1, Australians with AML will pay $42.50 per script, or just $6.80 with a concession card to access Mylotarg.


ANZCHOG statement on COVID-19 vax  for children with blood cancer

Consensus-based recommendations for COVID19 vaccination in children and adolescents with cancer and immunocompromising non-malignant haematological conditions have been released by the Australian and New Zealand Children’s Haematology/Oncology Group (ANZCHOG).

The recommendations state that all children should receive vaccination, with the schedule schedule varying depending on child’s age, level of immunosuppression, and vaccine availability

According to ANZCHOG, COVID-19 vaccines should be administered at least one week after anthracycline administration; at least four weeks after high dose cytarabine; and six weeks after the first dose of immune checkpoint inhibitors, and only if there has been no development of myocarditis or pericarditis.

They also advise COVID-19 vaccination is delayed at least 3 months after the completion of treatment in those receiving rituximab, CAR T-cell therapy or HSCT.


Males in denial about gender-biased peer review

Gender disparities will continue in medical and scientific research funding so long as male medical researchers remain in denial about systemic bias in areas such as peer review, an immunologist says.

Dr Jessica Borger says there is clear evidence that of gender bias against women in funding application processes such as the NHMRC,  and the problem increases with seniority.

Writing in Women’s Agenda she notes that funding rates for women in the the recent 2021 Investigator Grants outcomes were 2–4% lower than those for men, enough to results in noticeable disparities in funding rates.

The bias is inherent in peer review system and needs to be tackled with gender quotas, she says.

“With more men than women receiving funding in the top bracket, women on average received $500,000 less per grant than the men despite being at the same level of seniority. Ultimately, this means of the few successful senior women retained to do competitive research, are doing so with significantly reduced funds compared to their male counterparts, limiting their future research pathway and forcing women researchers to leave science at early stages of their career,” Dr Borger said.

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