News in brief: Lack of awareness on blood cancer symptoms “extremely worrying”; Doctors drink to relieve pandemic distress; STAMP inhibitor offers benefit in CML-CP

Lack of public awareness on blood cancer symptoms “extremely worrying”

More than half of adults are unable to name a single symptom of blood cancer, despite its ranking as the third biggest killer of cancer patients, reveals a poll by Blood Cancer UK.

Just 44% of 2,000 people responding to the survey could name a common symptom, marking a low level of public awareness of the disease that the charity said was “extremely worrying”.

The poll, commissioned to mark this month’s Blood Cancer Awareness Month, revealed that just 1% were aware that fever and 3% that breathlessness could be signs of the illness, which is particularly pertinent given that these symptoms could initially be linked to COVID-19, delaying a correct diagnosis.

Just under a third (30%) of respondents knew that fatigue was a common symptom, while 11% correctly identified bruising (11%) and weight loss (10%) as signs. Awareness of pain (5%), repeated infection (2%) and lumps and night sweats (1%) was also extremely low.

“Sadly, symptoms such as fatigue, weight loss and night sweats can sometimes be dismissed or downplayed and the result can be devastating. During the height of the pandemic, we saw far fewer people being diagnosed with blood cancer, and one of the reasons for this could be that some of the symptoms of blood cancer are easily mistaken for Covid,” said Kate Keightley, head of support services at Blood Cancer UK.

“Getting diagnosed as early as possible can really help improve the success of treatment for a number of types of blood cancer. We’re concerned that the pandemic has put people off going to their GP and the impact this is having on catching cancer early”.

The findings highlight an urgent need to raise public awareness of blood cancers, the charity said.

Doctors hit the bottle to relieve pandemic distress

Alcohol is one of the main coping strategies used by Australian healthcare workers in response to the pandemic, a national survey has revealed.

Conducted in September 2020, the survey on wellbeing and coping strategies elicited responses from 7846 frontline healthcare workers including more than 2400 medical staff, and showed that over a quarter (26.3%) reported increased alcohol use.

The most commonly reported adaptive coping strategies were exercise (45%), social connections (32%) and yoga or meditation (26%), whereas few used workplace support programs (6%) or sought help from a doctor or psychologist (18%).

Use of alcohol was associated with poor mental health and worse personal relationships, the study found.

The study investigators said the widespread use of maladaptive coping strategies by healthcare workers during the second wave highlighted an urgent need to improve access and uptake of professional support services for psychological distress.

Read more in General Hospital Psychiatry

STAMP inhibitor offers benefit in CML-CP

Asciminib has demonstrated superior efficacy compared to bosutinib and an improved safety profile in patients with CML in chronic phase (CML-CP) after at least two prior TKIs.

A phase 3, open label study randomised 233 patients to either the first-in-class STAMP inhibitor or bosutinib.

The international study found major molecular response (MMR) rate at week 24 was 25.5% with asciminib compared to 13.2% with bosutinib.

The study, coauthored by Professor Tim Hughes from SAHMRI, found asciminib was also associated with fewer grade ≥3 adverse events (50.6% vs 60.5%) and fewer adverse events leading to treatment discontinuation (5.8% vs 21.1%) than bosutinib.

The study said the findings “support the potential of asciminib to transform the CML treatment landscape, particularly for patients with R/I to ≥2 prior TKIs, who may benefit from a treatment with a novel mechanism of action.”

Read more in Blood

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