News in brief: Ocular side effect warning for ipilimumab; ANZCHOG statement on COVID-19 vax  for children with cancer; Male researchers in denial about gender-biased peer review

Wednesday, 2 Mar 2022

Ocular side effect warning for ipilimumab

The TGA has issued a safety advisory statement for the anti-CTLA-4 drug ipilimumab (Yervoy) warning of the rare but serious adverse event of serous (exudative) retinal detachment.

While no cases of retinal detachment have been reported with the drug in Australia, the TGA says vigilance for possible ipilimumab-related ocular effects is needed based on evidence published in the literature and the seriousness of the adverse reaction.

If diagnosed early, the amount of photoreceptor degeneration and loss of vision due to the adverse effect can be minimised by early treatment with steroids, it says.

“It is important for physicians, ophthalmologists and patients to be aware of this possible adverse reaction because without appropriate treatment, many retinal detachments progress to involve the central retina and may lead to loss of vision,” the TGA said in its statement released on 18 February.

Ipilimumab is used for the treatment of patients with melanoma, renal cell carcinoma, malignant pleural mesothelioma;, and for the treatment of non-small cell lung cancer.

According to the TGA, ipilimumab upregulates the immune system and may cause autoimmune-like pro-inflammatory effects that result in ocular changes such as uveitis and serous retinal detachment.

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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