News in brief: Ruxolitinib second-line therapy of choice in polycythaemia vera without splenomegaly; Humoral not cellular immunity reduced in COVID vaxxed patients with indolent lymphomas; Robots able to help in blood donation processing

Ruxolitinib second-line therapy of choice in polycythaemia vera without splenomegaly

Researchers are backing ruxolitinib as a second-line therapy of choice for polycythaemia vera patients without splenomegaly, after seeing prolonged benefit with the drug.

The latest RESPONSE-2 trial review saw 16 of 74 patients on Janus kinase 1 and 2 inhibitor ruxolitinib achieve durable haematocrit control by 260 weeks’ follow-up, with estimated duration not reached. The outcome wasn’t reported for patients on best available therapy (n = 75), as few people responded by week 80.

Over the five years, ruxolitinib patients’ kept median haematocrit levels below 45% and had 96% overall survival (95% CI: 87%–99%) versus 91% (95% CI: 80%–96%) among hydroxyurea, interferon or pegylated interferon, pipobroman, lenalidomide or non-treatment users.

The groups had 60 versus 106 phlebotomies, respectively and the most common grade 3–4 adverse events included hypertension (eight versus three), thrombocytopenia (one versus three) and thrombocytosis (zero versus four).

No treatment-related deaths occurred during the study, the authors wrote in The Lancet Haematology.

“5-year results from the RESPONSE-2 study support the use of ruxolitinib as a second-line therapy of choice for patients with inadequately controlled polycythaemia vera without splenomegaly,” they concluded.

The study was funded by Novartis. 

Humoral not cellular immunity reduced in patients with indolent lymphomas

Treatment naïve patients with follicular lymphoma and Waldenström’s macroglobulinemia (WM) have comparable COVID-19 vaccine-induced humoral immunity to healthy controls, according to an Australian study.

However the humoral response was reduced in follicular lymphoma patients who have received immunochemotherapy and in WM patients treated with continuous BTKi therapy.

“These results indicate the merit of completing at least two doses of vaccination during the period of initial observation after diagnosis and pre-treatment,” it said.

In a subgroup of patients who had received a third COVID-19 vaccination, only 17% demonstrated seroconversion.

“Encouragingly, despite poor humoral response in the immunochemotherapy and BTKi treated populations, our patients had measurable antigen-specific CD4+ and C D8+ T cells responses of a magnitude comparable to healthy controls.”

This raises the possibility that even in patients who fail to seroconvert there may be benefit from vaccination, the researchers said.

Read more in American Journal of Haematology

Robots able to help in blood donation processing

Swinburne University of Technology researchers have delivered a proof-of-concept prototype using collaborative robots and machine vision systems to safely automate the processing of blood donation packs.

While currently still slower than a human, the robots can fold the blood packs and load the centrifuges to separate donations into their cellular components. The final design may involve a combination of semi-automated, automated or assisted processes.

Project lead and Deputy Director of Swinburne’s Factory of the Future, Dr Shanti Krishnan said folding soft and deformable objects with significant variation in shape and geometry was a highly complex procedure using robots.

However it was exciting to deliver an automated and innovative solution to a repetitive manual process in the medical industry.

“In the medical industry, like any other, the future belongs to those organisations that are willing to embrace advanced technologies such as robotics, sensors and data analytics, not only to improve routine processes to lift productivity, but also go beyond and explore new opportunities.”

“As all processing centres have almost identical laboratory setups, the results from this project could be translated nationally.”

He said the findings could also be translated to other similar processes with an impact on food, health, manufacturing and other industries.


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