The Health News – 7 December 2016

Overview:
• Reversing the order of treatment for cancer patients could increase survival up to 60% according to Queensland scientists after doing trials on mice. Dr Michele Teng from the QIMR Berghofer Medical Research Institute who led the study, said if they results were replicated in humans it could lead to widespread changes in oncology practices

• Smartphones have the ability to track human phone usage and behaviour, which gets data that can be used to give insight into our mental wellbeing. However, nnovations can sometimes go awry. This was seen with the Samaritan Radar app, which applied a detection algorithm for suicidal keywords in Twitter postings.

• Strong drugs used to treat elderly patients with delirium may not work and might even hasten death, a landmark Australian study has found. The study found identifying delirium early and treating the underlying causes reduced patient’s distress more than antipsychotic medication.

News on Health Professional Radio. Today is the  7th of December 2016. Read by Rebecca Foster. Health News

http://www.abc.net.au/news/2016-12-06/cancer-study-immunology-before-surgery-boost-survival-in-mice/8095214

Reversing the order of treatment for patients with certain cancers could increase survival rates by up to 60 per cent, Queensland scientists have found during an experiment on mice.

Researchers at the QIMR Berghofer Medical Research Institute trialled giving immunotherapy drugs to mice with breast cancer before surgery, rather than after.

Survival rates are usually very low, but about half of the mice treated in this order were cured.

Dr Michele Teng, who led the study, said if they results were replicated in humans it could lead to widespread changes in oncology practices.

“To our surprise, when we gave mice a combination of two immunotherapy drugs before surgery, between 40 and 60 per cent were cured of triple-negative breast cancer,” she said.

“It appears that this therapy destroyed any cancer cells that had spread to other parts of the body and stopped the cancer from returning.”

In the past five years, immunotherapy has revolutionised the treatment of some cancers.

It has been shown to be effective against 15 types, such as melanoma and kidney cancer.

It works by activating a patient’s immune system to recognise and destroy cancer cells.

The QIMR Berghofer researchers found the mice that received immunotherapy before surgery had higher levels of an immune cell known as tumour-specific T cells, which destroy cancer cells.

Furthermore, the T cells were found to be better quality and lasted a long time, preventing the cancer’s return.

The next step is for the researchers to understand in more detail why giving immunotherapy before surgery led to better survival rates in mice and whether this could also apply to other cancers.

http://www.abc.net.au/news/2016-12-06/can-your-smartphone-track-your-mental-health/8093880

Smartphones come with an assortment of sensors that can track behaviours such as our internet search and browse history, where we go, what music we listen to, who we speak to, just to name a few.

The habitual nature of people means this data could be used to give insight into our mental wellbeing. Acute changes in behavioural patterns may indicate a need for support, and the use of any health diaries on a smartphone may enable us to monitor chronic conditions more effectively.

But despite good intentions, innovations can sometimes go awry when not thought through thoroughly enough. This was seen with the Samaritan Radar app, which applied a detection algorithm for suicidal keywords in Twitter postings.

Users who signed up to the app were notified via email when one of their followers triggered the detection algorithm. But the followers had not provided consent for the screening and detection.

The Samaritan app was pulled after three days due to a growing chorus of protests highlighting privacy issues and potential for cyber-bullying.

Nonetheless, there is an increasing number of other apps available in the Android and Apple stores aimed to support mental health and wellbeing.

http://www.abc.net.au/news/2016-12-06/commonly-used-anti-psychotic-for-delirium-not-helpful-study/8094448

Strong drugs used to treat elderly patients with a common condition called delirium may not work and might even hasten death, a landmark Australian study has found.

Researchers from Sydney’s UTS Centre for Cardiovascular and Chronic Care, led by Professor Meera Agar, completed the study.

“Not only do the drugs not work, but they actually make people worse by prolonging their delirium,” Professor Agar said.

Almost 250 patients in palliative care were given either of two commonly used drugs known [as]… antipsychotics or a placebo.

As many as one in 10 patients in hospital have delirium, a condition where patients become restless, suffer illusions and become incoherent.

The figure is even higher for patients in palliative care.

Many are given antipsychotics …

But this new study found in patients receiving palliative care, distressing behaviour and symptoms of delirium were “significantly greater” in those treated with antipsychotics than in those receiving placebos.

Professor Agar said there was a huge concern that these drugs increased mortality for people with dementia, which she said was “very worrying”.

She said the findings should prompt health authorities to rethink how delirium is treated.

Australian doctors said the findings were so strong, it would change which drugs patients with delirium were prescribed around the world.

The study found identifying delirium early and treating the underlying causes reduced patient’s distress more than antipsychotic medication.

It also found that making sure patients had their glasses and hearing aids, and that patients were hydrated and nourished, could prevent or treat the condition.

Australian health experts recommended similar approaches in the Delirium Clinical Care Standard of the Australian Commission of Safety and Quality in Health Care, released in July 2016.

The study, Oral risperidone, haloperidol or placebo for delirium symptoms in palliative care, is published in JAMA Internal Medicine.