News in brief: Oncology ward hit by COVID-19 cluster; FGFR inhibitor shows promise in advanced cholangiocarcinoma; Doctor wins $450k damages for malicious reviews

Tuesday, 17 Aug 2021

Oncology ward hit by COVID-19 cluster

Three patients and two staff members in the oncology ward of Sydney’s St George Hospital have tested positive for COVID-19 leading to isolation of more than 80 hospital healthcare staff and scores of patients.

A cancer patient was the first to develop symptoms, and the staff members who contracted the virus were a junior medical officer and a nurse unit manager, according to NSW Health Minister Brad Hazzard.

The infections reported on August 13 and 14, occurred in one person who shared a room with the initial patient and two others on oncology ward 7A, he said.

A spokesperson for NSW Health said the two staff members who tested positive were both fully vaccinated, while two of the three patients had one dose of vaccine and one patient was unvaccinated.

The oncology ward is not accepting new admissions and all 21 patients on the ward have been tested and are in isolation.

“The hospital is contacting patients who were on those wards at the same time that other patients may have been infectious and asking them to get tested and isolate,” the spokesperson said

FGFR inhibitor a potential option in advanced cholangiocarcinoma

Infigratinib could offer advanced cholangiocarcinoma patients another chance at treatment, a phase II study has shown.

The fibroblast growth factor receptor (FGFR) inhibitor achieved a 23.1% objective response rate (95% CI: 15.6–32.2, 25 of 108 patients) at median follow-up 10.6 months, with one complete response in a patient who had non-target lesions identified at baseline, the authors wrote in The Lancet Gastroenterology & Hepatology.

The drug had a manageable safety profile, with hyperphosphataemia, stomatitis, fatigue and alopecia being the most common adverse events of any grade. Some patients also experienced dry eye and central serous retinopathy-like or retinal pigment epithelial detachment-like events, they wrote.

Patients received 125 mg of oral infigratinib once daily for 21 days of 28-day cycles until disease progression, intolerance, consent withdrawal or death.

“Treatment options are sparse for patients with advanced cholangiocarcinoma after progression on first-line gemcitabine-based therapy,” the authors wrote.

“Infigratinib has promising clinical activity and a manageable adverse event profile in previously treated patients with locally advanced or metastatic cholangiocarcinoma harbouring FGFR2 gene fusions or rearrangements, and so represents a potential new therapeutic option in this setting.”

Doctor wins $450k damages for malicious reviews

A Sydney surgeon has been awarded $450,000 in defamation damages from a woman who mounted a campaign of online abuse and false claims against him after he refused to operate on her.

Dr Warwick Nettle, a Bondi-based plastic and reconstructive surgeon, became the target of virulent abuse, falsehoods and negative reviews from Catherine Cruse in 2018 when he declined to perform surgery on her, based on warnings from another surgeon who had previously treated her.

Dr Nettle took his case to the Federal Court of Australia, which found that his behaviour was professionally appropriate and justifiable, and that the online comments and maliciously false reviews reviews had seriously damaged both his professional reputation and his thriving practice.

As a results of Ms Cruse posting negative reviews, Dr Nettle’s “Google rating” fell from 5 to 3.5 stars and his workload declined significantly.

The court awarded damages of $450,000 to Dr Nettle and granted permanent injunctions barring Ms Cruse from posting further false and defamatory material about him. However Ms Cruse did not take part in the proceedings and could not be traced, having apparently deliberately concealed her whereabouts, the court was told.

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