News in brief: New classification for haemochromatosis; National standards in blood cancer treatment; Conservative media promote antivax beliefs: study

Thursday, 28 Oct 2021

New classification for haemochromatosis

An international group has proposed a new classification of haemochromatosis (HC) that reflects updated knowledge of the disease and its subtypes.

Writing in Blood, a working group of the International Society for the Study of  Iron in Biology and Medicine (BIOIRON) Society noted that recent advances in knowledge around the pathophysiology and molecular basis of iron metabolism have highlighted that HC is caused by mutations in at least five genes.

“This has led to an HC classification based on different molecular subtypes, mainly reflecting successive gene discovery. This scheme was difficult to adopt in clinical practice and therefore needs revision,” they wrote.

Instead, the group proposes a new classification of HC that addresses both clinical issues and molecular precision and is capable of capturing growing genetic complexity of the disease HC highlighted by next-generation-sequencing.

“The new classification recognises the difficulties of a complete molecular characterisation and has the benefit of being easily shareable between practicing physicians and referral centres. Avoiding any ambiguity is essential for clear and effective communication that will facilitate proper diagnosis and treatment of HC,” they added.

Campaign for national standards in blood cancer treatment

A national campaign is calling for a new set of national standards in blood cancer treatment, to remove geographic discrepancies and ensure that all Australians have access to best practice blood cancer diagnosis, treatment and care, no matter their postcode.

The Leukaemia Foundation says Blood Cancer Treatment: Set the Standard is the biggest and most important campaign in its history, and is seeking signatures from people with blood cancer and the loved ones of people affected by blood cancer.

“The aim is to raise awareness of the 13% disparity in survival outcomes and that we can prevent 1,375 deaths from blood cancer each year, by implementing priority recommendations in the National Strategic Action Plan for Blood Cancer to set standards for diagnosis, treatment, and care,” it said.CEO Chris Tanti said the campaign is a once-in-a-generation opportunity to save 1375 Australians from dying every year by setting national standards for access to blood cancer services.

“We are fortunate to have one of the best healthcare systems in the world, but that doesn’t mean much to a patient and their loved ones when there is inconsistencies in access to treatment across various parts of Australia,” he said.

“We have made huge strides in treating blood cancer, we can’t afford to stop now. The community can help us get there by adding their name to our national map and Set the Standard of having the best treatment available to everyone.”

A recent study found that people with blood cancer who received their treatment outside metropolitan areas were 37% less likely to receive treatment that complies with current guidelines. The study also found that when clinical best practice is applied, the risk of death from some blood cancers decreases by 40%.

Conservative media promote antivax beliefs: study

People who rely on conservative media outlets are more likely to accept conspiracy theories about the COVID-19 pandemic and less likely to accept pandemic mitigation measures such as mask-wearing and vaccination, a US study has found.

A national survey of 883 people running from March to November 2020 found that users of conservative media such as Fox News initially supported vaccination and trusted the Center for Disease Control (CDC) advice at the outset of the study, but continued exposure to conservative media reduced support for both. People who were exposed to conservative media displayed increasing belief in pandemic conspiracies which were associated with reduced support for pandemic prevention measures. In contrast, users of mainstream media sources showed enhanced trust in preventive behaviour and in public health authorities across the pandemic, and did not exhibit change in pandemic conspiracy beliefs over time, but heavy users of conservative media remain largely impervious to these influences.

“The selective use of these media enhances belief in conspiracies that pose challenges to the country’s ability to control a public health crisis such as the COVID pandemic,” the study authors concluded in Social Science and Medicine.

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