News in brief: Oncologists have high rates of suicidal thoughts; Protocols needed to ensure BRAF mutation testing in melanoma; National genomics agency to be created

Thursday, 24 Mar 2022


Oncologists have high rates of suicidal thoughts

Oncologists are among the specialist groups with higher rates of suicidal thoughts, according to the 2022 Medscape survey of more than 13,000 US physicians.

An average 7.2% of physicians reported suicidal ideation, which is higher than for the general U.S. population (4%). Rates varied between specialities, ranging from highs of 13% for pathology, 12% for oncology and surgery, compared to 6% for specialties such as cardiology, respiratory medicine and dermatology and 5% for rheumatology.

However physicians appeared reluctant to disclose their suicidal thoughts to others, especially those in older age groups.

About a third said they discussed suicidal thoughts with a family member and/or therapist, but only 23% of physicians in the 42-56 years age groups and 23% in the over 57 age group confided with a colleague.

Almost half (44%) of older physicians said they did not disclose their suicidal thoughts to anyone, compared to 38% of those aged 42-57 and 34% of physicians under 41.

The survey organisers said it was encouraging to see that younger physicians were less likely to feel a sense of stigma about disclosure and seeking help for suicidal ideation.

www.beyondblue.com

www.lifeline.org.au

www.suicidecallbackservice.org.au


Protocols needed to ensure BRAF mutation testing in melanoma

Low rates of testing for BRAF mutations in metastatic melanoma can be overcome by having testing protocols embedded within specialist melanoma referral centres, an Australian study has found.

A review of tissue specimens for 408 stage III/IV melanoma patients handled by pathologists from 2019 to 2021 found that clinical requests for BRAF mutation testing rarely accompanied the pathology referrals (4%).

Following implementation of a local BRAF mutation testing protocol, pathologists were able to establish the BRAF mutation status in the majority of stage III/IV melanoma cases (87%), the Sydney University study found.

“BRAF mutations in metastatic melanoma are vital for personalised therapeutic approaches to management and can aid in the rapid treatment of patients,” the researchers wrote in the journal Pathology.

“This study demonstrates that a structured approach to BRAF mutation testing can facilitate successful reflex biomarker assessment within routine pathology practice, although increased pathologist education regarding pathologist determinable molecular testing is required,” they added.


National genomics agency to be created

A new national agency, Genomics Australia, is being established to support the integration of genomic medicine into clinical practice in Australia.

Backed by $28 million from the Medical Research Future Fund (MRFF), the new agency will coordinate researchers, industry, clinicians and consumers to translate the potential of genomics-led medicine into practice, the federal government says.

The agency will promote the development and uptake of genomic testing, diagnosis and the use of genomic-guided therapies in clinical care. Genomics Australia will be chaired by paediatric Professor Kathryn North, Director of the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute , Melbourne, who has a background in genetics, neurology and paediatrics.

A Taskforce in the Department of Health, with expert guidance from Professor North, will design and establish Genomics Australia, which will become a legislated corporate Commonwealth entity under the Health portfolio from 1 January 2024.

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