News in Brief: Emphysema procedure shows promise against lung cancer lesions; Where have all the respiratory viruses gone? Trial to test new sleep apnoea treatments

Wednesday, 31 Mar 2021

Procedure used for severe emphysema shows promise in lung cancer patients 

Researchers in Australia and international collaborators have used bronchoscopic thermal vapour ablation (BTVA) to ablate and resect tumours in six patients with lung cancer.

The 12-minute procedure, which uses heated water to scar damaged lung tissue that then shrinks over a period of days making breathing easier, is currently approved for minimally invasive lung volume reduction in severe emphysema.

Now investigators from Royal Melbourne Hospital involved in the study say there is potential for BTVA in minimally invasive ablation of lung cancer lesions.

Six patients underwent the procedure as part of a safety and feasibility study. Researchers reported no major treated-related complications and said complete or near-complete necrosis of target lesions were seen in 2 patients.

Generally, tumours positioned within the ablation zones showed necrosis in >99% of cross-sectional area examined.

Investigators say the minimally invasive procedure is feasible, well tolerated, and has ‘high potential for effective ablation of tumours’.

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Where have all the respiratory viruses gone?

A recent and unseasonal surge in RSV cases across some parts of Australia has prompted respiratory physicians and epidemiologists to warn of a resurgence in other seasonal respiratory viruses like influenza which have experienced a ‘massive reduction’ in incidence in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic and strict bans on travel and group gatherings.

Writing in the Journal of Medical Virology researchers from the University of Queensland, Westmead Hospital and international colleagues say this resurgence may not follow the usual seasonal patterns. What’s more the considerable morbidity and mortality of these normally predictable winter respiratory viruses could be exacerbated if co-circulating with COVID-19, they add.

With restrictions easing, some parts of Australia have been experiencing high levels of RSV activity, they note. These RSV peaks are occurring later than any previous seasonal RSV activity, which suggests that COVID19 prevention measures may have delayed the epidemics of some of these viruses, with subsequent reappearance when measures are relaxed beyond a certain level.

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Trial to test new sleep apnoea treatments

UWA’s Centre for Sleep Science is seeking volunteers to take part in one of two current trials investigating two new treatments that might be an alternative for people who struggle with existing options like CPAP.

The first trial involves a small surgery with regular follow up and therapy adjustment over a 12-month period.

Participants would place a small patch under the chin each night to stimulate the surgically fitted device and keep the airways open during sleep.

The second trial, a pharmaceutical study, would require participants to take medication over an eight-week period.

Both trials would involve at least five overnight stays at the sleep lab at the Centre for Sleep Science, to assess how effective the therapy is for participants.

The Centre is looking for approximately 10 volunteers (up to 75 years old) who have obstructive sleep apnoea but are not regularly using any treatments for each of the two studies.

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