News in brief: Patient-reported outcomes predict survival; Antibiotic prescribing halved during pandemic; SA appointment flags era of computational cancer systems biology

Tuesday, 26 Apr 2022

Patient-reported outcomes predict survival 

Pre-treatment patient-reported outcomes (PROs) are more predictive of overall survival than physician-defined ECOG-PS in patients with advanced NSCLC treated with first-line atezolizumab combination therapies, research shows.

In a study of 1,927 participants from a pooled cohort of phase 3 clinical trials, patient-reported physical function, fatigue and appetite loss had the highest predictive value.

The Australian researchers said PROs should be implemented into clinical practice.

“However, the integration of PROs into clinical practice poses challenges including time constraints, handling of missing data and literacy differences between patients.”

“To circumvent these challenges, a more targeted approach of asking questions that make up patient-reported physical function such as ‘Do you have any trouble doing strenuous activities?’ or ‘Do you have any trouble taking a short/long walk?’ could be utilised in conjunction with ECOG-PS.”

Read more in Translational Lung Cancer Research

Antibiotic prescribing halved during pandemic

The number of antibiotics prescribed in Australia fell by as much as 50% during the COVID-19 pandemic, a study has shown.

An analysis of outpatient antibiotic prescriptions issued from January 2014 to April 2021 showed that the number of prescriptions dropped sharply as national restrictions were implemented at the start of the pandemic in March 2020 and remained lower than usual during the period studied.

In winter 2020, there were 1,432,000 prescriptions per month compared to 2,313,000 the same month in 2019, a 38% reduction. Summer 2021 showed a 23% reduction in prescriptions compared to the summers of 2018 , according to Dr Jack Skeggs of Monash Infectious Diseases, Monash Health.

The reductions were predominantly in antibiotics such as amoxicillin used to treat community-acquired respiratory infections which showed a 52% reduction in prescribing the winter of 2020 compared to pre-pandemic levels. Prescription of antibiotics such as trimethoprim commonly used for other indications, remained stable.

Some of the reduction is likely to be due to the social distancing measures introduced to curb COVID-19 also reducing the spread of other respiratory infections, Dr Skeggs suggested.

He said it was notable that reductions occurred in all states and territories despite significant differences in COVID-19 case numbers and duration of lockdowns

“This is particularly promising as it suggests that the reductions were not dependent on high case numbers or the most onerous social distancing measures like lockdowns and it may therefore be possible to maintain some of the decreases after the pandemic,” he said.

“Our finding that certain broad-spectrum antibiotics like amoxicillin-clavulanate appear to be being prescribed for community-acquired respiratory infections suggests that antibiotic prescribing for respiratory illness remains a valuable target for future anti-microbial stewardship programs,” he added.

The findings were presented at the European Congress of Clinical Microbiology & Infectious Diseases (ECCMID) in Lisbon, Portugal.

SA appointment flags era of computational cancer systems biology

Professor Melissa Davis has been appointed Program Leader, Cancer Systems Biology at the South Australian immunoGENomics Cancer Institute (SAiGENCI).

Professor Davis is an internationally recognised expert in computational cancer systems biology, bioinformatics and the computational modelling of cancer plasticity.

“The Computational Systems Oncology program will produce insights into where and why cancer appears and progresses, and how tumours respond to therapy,” Professor Davis said.

Professor Benjamin Kile, Executive Dean, Faculty of Health and Medical Sciences at the University of Adelaide, said the appointment was a unique opportunity for SAiGENCI and the broader SA cancer research community.

Professor Davis is currently the Vice President of the Australian Bioinformatics and Computational Biology Society, and holds honorary affiliations in the University of Melbourne’s Department of Clinical Pathology and the University of Queensland’s Diamantina Institute.

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