News in brief: PBS decision for pembrolizumab for GI cancers; Australia’s first Children’s Comprehensive Cancer Centre; Nano-gel may protect children receiving chemotherapy from hearing loss

PBAC recommendation for pembrolizumab for gastrooesophageal cancers.

The Pharmaceutical Benefits Advisory Committee (PBAC) has made a positive  recommendation for the PBS listing of pembrolizumab in combination with chemotherapy for the first line treatment of advanced or metastatic gastrooesophageal cancers.

At its May 2022 intracycle meeting the Committee recommended listing of pembrolizumab  “as defined by the specific tumour types included in the approved TGA indications.”

The recommendation for listing was based on the PBAC assessment that the cost-effectiveness of pembrolizumab as a first line treatment would be acceptable at the same or lower cost per three weekly treatment cycle as for nivolumab (as a first line treatment) for gastro-oesophageal cancers.

Pembrolizumab should be included in the risk share arrangement recommended for nivolumab, the PBAC advised, with the expenditure caps increased to account for the expected additional use in the first line treatment of oesophageal squamous cell carcinoma.

Work starts on Australia’s first Children’s Comprehensive Cancer Centre

Australia’s first Children’s Comprehensive Cancer Centre is to be established in NSW as part of a $658 million redevelopment of Sydney Children’s Hospital, Randwick.

Construction work will begin in the coming months on the new facility that is expected to open in late 2025.

The redeveloped paediatric hospital will include the Minderoo Children’s Comprehensive Cancer Centre, a day oncology centre, neurosciences centre ​inpatient units for oncology and other specialties , a paediatric pharmacy  as well as wet and dry laboratories to support cancer research education, training and research spaces.

The project is being funded with $478 million from the NSW Government; $100 million from the Commonwealth Government; $25 million from the Sydney Children’s Hospitals Foundation; and $25 million from Children’s Cancer Institute.

UNSW is providing a $30 million in-kind contribution for additional integrated facilities for the Children’s Comprehensive Cancer Centre within the adjacent UNSW Health Translation Hub.

The Minderoo Foundation has made a $15 million donation as part of an overall $50 million in philanthropic contributions towards the project.

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Novel nano-gel may protect children receiving chemotherapy from hearing loss

WA researchers are testing a bile-acid based nano-gel with potential  anti-inflammatory cell protective effects as a means of preventing hearing loss in children receiving chemotherapy

Associate Professor Hani Al-Salami from the Curtin Health Innovation Research Institute (CHIRI) at Curtin University, Perth, said about half of children receiving treatment for cancer will have some degree of permanent hearing due to toxic effects of chemotherapy drugs.

“There is currently no proven prevention or cure for this hearing loss, so this new research will test the effectiveness of a nano-gel that is injected into the ear before chemotherapy to prevent the possible side effect of cancer treatment among children,” Associate Professor Al-Salami said.

“The bile acid-based nano-gel has been developed at Curtin by a group of clinicians, pharmaceutical scientists, ENT surgeons, cochlea physiologists and synthetic chemists using cutting-edge technologies.

Nanotechnology based on the bile acid chenodeoxycholic acid (CDCA) has previously been used to develop microparticles to enhance drug delivery. This has recently been adopted for use as a cell protection system by creating a barrier to prevent inflammatory injury to cells.

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