The Health News – 23 April 2014

Overview

  • In QLD, a scientific researcher has created a new test which may improve survival rates for breast cancer patients. The research has discovered new gene signatures which should improve the accuracy of diagnoses.
  • In Western Australia, the state’s country health service says it is yet to confirm the source of a hepatitis A outbreak in the south-west of the state.
  • It’s been revealed a number of chief executives of Medicare Local branches have been warned of their impending closure by the federal government.


Health News on HPR.

Breast cancer survival rates could be boosted by gene test developed by Queensland scientist – by Stephanie Small

http://www.abc.net.au/news/2014-04-22/test-set-to-boost-survival-rates/5404704

In QLD, a scientific researcher has created a new test which may improve survival rates for breast cancer patients. The research has discovered new gene signatures which should improve the accuracy of diagnoses.

It’s hoped improved accuracy of testing will lead to women receiving better treatments for breast cancer earlier.

Dr Fares Al-Ejah of the QIMR Berghofer Medical Research Institute, was researching triple-negative breast cancer when the basis for the test became apparent.

He says “Existing tests are restricted to specific types of breast cancers and are not useful for the most aggressive forms of the disease. The clinician would send the sample to the pathology lab, the pathology lab will say it’s got this receptor or that receptor or none, and that will decide the treatment. So if it’s got something called hormone receptors, they will be given the drug Tamoxifen, and if it’s got something else called HER2, they are given Herceptin.” But Dr Al-Ejah says this broad approach is not appropriate for all patients. He continued “There are groups of patients within these general groups that, although they’re given Tamoxifen, that’s not enough. They should be given chemotherapy on top, and maybe some patients who are given chemotherapy over Tamoxifen … should not be given chemotherapy because they will do fine by the current treatment standards.” Dr Al-Ejah says all breast cancers have their own unique genetic signature, which his new test will identify to ensure women receive the best treatment available for their case. He said the test is still about 3 years from widescale release, and said

“Down the track, once we have enough support for this test, when we’ve done enough of it, we’ll be able to say certain women with breast cancer … will just be fine with taking the Tamoxifen pill, for example, without the need for chemotherapy.”

Probe fails to find source of Busselton hep A outbreak – no author listed

In Western Australia, the state’s country health service says it is yet to confirm the source of a hepatitis A outbreak in the south-west of the state. Last month four cases were confirmed in Busselton, afflicting 2 mothers and their young children. An investigation was launched but did not find a definitive source of the outbreak. A spokesman for the Country Health Service says it is closely monitoring the situation but there have been no further cases since March.

Hepatitis A involves inflammation of the liver, symptoms include body aches, jaundice and tiredness.

Medicare Locals likely to face the axe in May budget, health executives warn – by Sophie Scott and Alison Brandley

http://www.abc.net.au/news/2014-04-22/medicare-locals-like-to-face-the-axe-in-budget/5402414

It’s been revealed a number of chief executives of Medicare Local branches have been warned of their impending closure by the federal government.

Much speculation has been made on the possible ceasing of the program,  launched by the Rudd government in 2008 to address community-specific health needs. Chief executives of the 61 Medicare Local branches held conference calls last week to discuss the possible actions being discussed by the government.  Some prosposals other than closing the branches, include establishing larger statutory agencies to funnel state and federal funding; heavier involvement of private health insurers; more focus on GP involvement; putting services out to public tender; and disbanded the Australian Medicare Local Alliance. The possible moves have caused an uproar amongst local health organisations.  A letter sent to all Medicare Local branch chief executives by the Local Alliance peak body urged the executives to rally their member of parliament about the changes.

The potential changes have caused widespread angst among the local healthcare organisations.  It is understood many staff have already left because of the lack of certainty around employment.