Prostate cancer discovery
MELBOURNE researchers have made a discovery that could halt the spread of prostate cancer, which kills more than 3000 Australian men each year, The Age reports. Director of clinical pharmacology and therapeutics at the Austin Hospital, Professor Albert Frauman, said the finding, made with researchers from St Vincent’s Institute of Medical Research and Monash University, could lead to a new way to treat the disease in the next 5 years. The team found a way to inhibit the molecule CD151 found in high levels in aggressive prostate cancer, causing it to spread.

Help for flood victims
LEADING psychiatrist and Australian of the Year Professor Patrick McGorry has been hired to help Queenslanders cope with the mental toll of the floods, as a new authority begins planning how the state will rebuild the damaged bricks and mortar, the Sydney Morning Herald reports. Queensland Health has asked Professor McGorry to visit flood-affected areas and help mental health teams with the task of caring for people who have been traumatised and shaken by the disaster.

Cancer study questioned
THREE Melbourne oncologists say cancer treatment research published in The Lancet may have been compromised by a drug company that funded the study, The Age reports. Associate Professor Ian Haines from Cabrini Hospital and two colleagues in a letter to The Lancet said publication of the research may have boosted the drug’s perceived value to doctors and patients around the world, helping its manufacturer make billions of dollars from the product. The research examined the efficacy of Roche’s drug MabThera (also known as rituximab) for patients with chronic lymphocytic leukaemia (CLL). A separate letter by Professor Haines and colleagues was published in The Lancet.

Support for aged care shake-up
THE federal government has signalled its support for a wide-ranging shake-up of the aged care sector recommended by the Productivity Commission, including the possibility of compulsory nursing home bonds, The Australian reports. A draft report calls for a means-tested aged care system that would see some seniors pay more while maintaining a safety net. The report warns that the number of people relying on the system will more than treble to 3.6 million people by 2050 — a demographic time bomb.

Centre for new drugs
THE Obama administration in the United States has become so concerned about the slowing pace of new drugs from the pharmaceutical industry that officials are planning a billion-dollar government drug development centre to help create medicines, the New York Times reports. The new effort comes as many large pharmaceutical manufacturers, who have become less willing to fund expensive clinical trials, are paring back research. Promising discoveries in illnesses like depression and Parkinson disease are not being trialled because companies have neither the will nor the resources to undertake the effort.

Defective gene holds answers
AUSTRALIAN research has identified a defective gene that explains why some colorectal cancer patients respond well to radiotherapy while others do not, The West Australian reports. They examined the role played by the gene MCC which they had earlier found was awry in around half of all cases of colon and rectal cancer. Patients with a defective MCC gene were found to have a much improved response to radiotherapy and some types of chemotherapy, as their tumours were much less resistant to treatment.

Breakfast myth quashed
NEW research suggests dieters who enjoy a hearty breakfast are just as likely to have a big lunch and dinner as those who keep it small, the Sydney Morning Herald reports. The idea that a large breakfast helps people consume fewer calories for the rest of the day is a myth, said researchers in Nutrition Journal. They examined the eating habits of almost 400 obese and normal weight people. Both big breakfast eaters and those who ate nothing or a low-calorie meal consumed the same quantity of calories for lunch and dinner.

Software hits financial wall
THE medical software sector hit the wall last year, with large and small players that had geared for expansion hit by a triple whammy, The Australian reports. Long-anticipated e-health projects did not materialise, the global financial crisis had people scrimping every last penny, and currency exchange losses added to the financial woes. Medical Software Industry Association president Geoffrey Sayer said the outlook for e-health in 2011 would be challenging.

Cholesterol claims queried
CONSUMERS with high cholesterol are better off visiting their GP for a prescription than looking for a solution in the supermarket aisles, says a medical paper that casts doubt on the effectiveness of food products claiming to reduce cholesterol reabsorption, the Sydney Morning Herald reports. Many margarines and spreads advertise an ability to reduce serum cholesterol levels by up to 15% through the addition of plant-based sterol and stanol esters. In a paper published in Complementary Therapies in Medicine, a Queensland pharmacologist argues that under normal consumption conditions these foods are unlikely to achieve reductions in cholesterol levels of above 1.3–3.8%.

Health fund exclusions
THE head of the Australian Private Hospitals Association has warned that patients are being hit with large, unexpected bills because of private health insurance policies that exclude coverage for common medical treatments, The Age reports. Association chief executive Michael Roff is concerned that a large increase in the number of private health fund members covered by “exclusionary” products could undermine the value of insurance. The proportion of health fund members covered by exclusionary policies was 20% in the June quarter last year, he said. Typically the policies did not cover common treatments such as knee surgery, cardiac surgery and obstetrics care.

Posted 24 January 2011

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