News in brief: ‘World class’ cancer centre election pledge for Queensland; Anakinra may prevent chemo mucositis; Medical acronyms a muddle for patients

‘World class’ cancer centre election pledge for Queensland

Queensland will get its own Peter Mac-style comprehensive cancer centre if the Coalition is re-elected, following a $375 million pitch from Scott Morrison.

The announcement follows promises to build comprehensive facilities in Perth and Adelaide, creating a national network of cancer centres at a total cost of nearly $2 billion.

Modelled on the Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre in Melbourne and Chris O’Brien Lifehouse in Sydney, Scott Morrison said each would combine research, diagnosis, treatment and care.

In Queensland, some $2 million would be put on the table immediately to thrash out details including the facility’s location with the State Government and cancer experts, he promised.

The construction blitz has been pushed as part of the 10 year Australian Cancer Plan, which is currently under development by the Federal Government.

However, it hasn’t always received a universally positive reception.

Western Australian Mark McGowan refused to match Mr Morrison’s pledge to spend $375 million on a centre for the state back in March, saying there was still no business case for the project.

Anakinra may prevent intestinal injury from high-dose chemo

South Australian researchers are repurposing the arthritis drug anakinra to try prevent the intestinal mucosal barrier injury that leads to infections and fever in cancer patients receiving high dose chemotherapy.

A team at the Supportive Oncology Research Group at the South Australian Health and Medical Research Institute (SAHMRI), Adelaide, says the interleukin (IL-1) receptor antagonist may have a role in reducing antibiotic use in patients in whom chemotherapy causes intestinal inflammation and subsequent breakdown of the mucosal barrier, permitting translocation of enteric pathogens.

In animal studies they showed that mucosal barrier injury induced by the mucotoxic chemotherapeutic agent, high-dose melphalan (HDM) was characterized by hyper-active IL-1b/CXCL1/neutrophil signalling. Inhibition of this pathway with anakinra minimised the duration and intensity of mucosal barrier injury and accompanying clinical symptoms, including diarrhoea, weight loss and fever.

Co-author and consultant haematologist Professor Nicole Blijlevens, said a greater understanding of where infections originated led to finding alternative solutions to controlling bacteria.

“While we used to think infections predominantly came from external sources like hospital surfaces and equipment, we now know that they mainly come from inside the person’s gut,” she said.

“This has refocused our attention to how we can prevent these bacteria from moving from the gut to the blood.

“We showed that this drug – which is usually used to control rheumatoid arthritis – was not associated with any adverse events in people undergoing high dose chemotherapy.

“For decades, we have relied on antibiotics to prevent infection, but this new work suggests there may be alternatives to minimise our reliance on antibiotics.

The full study has been published in peer-reviewed open access journal Scientific Reports.

Medical acronyms a muddle for patients

As more patients are accessing their electronic medical records, many fail to comprehend basic medical abbreviations and acronyms, a study has found.

Comprehension of common abbreviations such as ‘HTN’ (hypertension) and ‘MI’ (myocardial infarction) remained below 40%, much lower than clinicians estimated, a survey conducted at three US hospitals found.

The survey of 60 patients found that most understood terms such as hrs (hours) and BP (blood pressure) but only two thirds knew what ED meant and as few as 20% comprehended terms such as hx (history) and HF (heart failure).

Researchers at the Department of Biomedical Informatics, Columbia University, New York, said clinicians should not assume that patients will understand even the most basic medical abbreviations. Automated text programs that convert and spell out acronyms in notes may help overcome misunderstanding of some medical abbreviations, they suggested.

The findings are published in JAMA Network Open.

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