The Health News – 07 January 2016

Overview:
• World-first melanoma research aimed at developing personalised radiation treatments for skin cancer patients is underway at Brisbane’s Princess Alexandra Hospital. According to Lead researcher and radiation oncologist Professor Bryan Burmeister said each melanoma patient reacted differently to treatment.

• Australian and British scientists have bred a mouse that lets them watch pancreatic cancer cells spread in real time, in a development that could combat early stages of cancer in humans. Parts of the biosensor mouse’s internal organs glow when viewed through a fluorescence microscope.

• At 64 years old Betty Esmonde has done more than her fair share of loads of washing — most of them in the past four-and-a-half years. Since 2011 Ms Betty Esmonde has volunteered her time to the Cairns Hospital’s Special Care Baby Unit (SCBU) where she washes, folds and stores the clothes worn by babies in the unit’s care.

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

http://www.abc.net.au/news/2016-01-06/brisbane-medical-trial-testing-personalised-melanoma-treatment/7071226

World-first melanoma research aimed at developing personalised radiation treatments for skin cancer patients is underway at Brisbane’s Princess Alexandra Hospital.

Lead researcher and radiation oncologist Professor Bryan Burmeister said each melanoma patient reacted differently to treatment.

“It’s called personalised medicine,” he said.

“We don’t classify patients according to what tumours they have, we now classify their treatments according to their genetic make-up of their tumour.”

The process involves removing cancerous cells from the patient and then identifying in the laboratory whether there are immune cells around particular melanoma cells.

Cells are then cultured in a Petri dish and exposed to smaller doses of radiation to see how they respond.

“Once we identify clones of cells we think might be sensitive to the radiation, we go further to see if we can identify individual biomarkers, which we can then test for in identifying radio sensitivity,” Professor Burmeister said.

“It’s like culturing a bacteria from a patient with an infection. You identify the bacteria, you expose it to antibiotics in the laboratory, [and] if the bacteria is sensitive to the antibiotics, you use those antibiotics on the patient.”

Professor Burmeister said while pharmaceutical companies had looked at the effects of drug therapy on melanoma patients, this type of research using radiation was a world first.

http://www.abc.net.au/news/2016-01-06/scientists-breed-biosensor-mouse-to-track-cancer-spread/7070408

Australian and British scientists have bred a mouse that lets them watch pancreatic cancer cells spread in real time, in a development that could combat early stages of cancer in humans.

Parts of the biosensor mouse’s internal organs glow when viewed through a fluorescence microscope.

The Garvan Institute of Medical Research’s Dr Paul Timpson, who co-led the research, said scientists took a molecule which holds normal cells together, or binds cancer cells to a specific site, and cloned it with a green fluorescent protein from jellyfish.

Scientists can see if the cancer is about to spread by observing which parts of the mouse glow.

“We can monitor this molecule moving and unzipping at a molecular level before cancer actually spreads,” Dr Timpson said.

“This tells us the cancer is preparing to spread and we can use this to use new drugs to stop the spread of that cancer.”

It is hoped that the development could lead to the creation of more effective anti-cancer drugs and insight into how to treat early-stage pancreatic cancer patients.

Dr Timpson said it could also be used to allow researchers and pharmaceutical companies to test the effectiveness of their drugs.

He said it would help prevent false positive or negative results in cancer testing.

“Sometimes you think you’ve got a drug and it doesn’t do what you think it’s going to in a real system,” he said.

Dr Timpson said by containing the cancer, surgeons could then extract the primary tumour.

The biosensor mouse is now being used on breast, colon and prostate cancers.

Scientists also hope to use it on other diseases.

http://www.abc.net.au/news/2016-01-06/volunteer-keeps-premature-babies-warm-and-healthy/7070700

At 64 years old Betty Esmonde has done more than her fair share of loads of washing — most of them in the past four-and-a-half years.

Since 2011 Ms Esmonde has volunteered her time to the Cairns Hospital’s Special Care Baby Unit (SCBU) where she washes, folds and stores the clothes worn by babies in the unit’s care.

“[The clothes] can’t go to the regular laundry because they’re so small they get lost,” Ms Esmonde said.

“Also, there’s a risk of infection because you just don’t know if the babies are sick or anything like that.

“They’re washed, they’re dried and they’re put away here in the unit so hopefully they don’t go anywhere else.”

Babies cared for in the SCBU are often so fragile that their clothes are stored in warming cupboards heated to 37 degrees Celsius.

Having given birth to a daughter with a disability, Ms Esmonde is no stranger to the happenings of hospital special care units.

“After seeing everything that goes on, it’s good that there’s somebody there to do these things,” she said.

“The mums and the nurses are so busy and there’s often some very stressful times as well so it’s nice for them to be able to go, pick out something, and clothe their babies.

“And I like to do that for them because I’ve been there and seen it all.”

… Ms Esmonde’s foray into volunteering only came about when her daughter took up her own volunteering job at St Vincent De Paul.

After a brief stint volunteering in the hospital kitchen, Ms Esmonde found herself helping out with the washing in the SCBU.

By her own admission she has “enjoyed every minute of it” since.

She enjoys it so much that she sees no reason to even think about quitting.

“God willing, health wise, everything will be good and I’ll keep coming,” she said.

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