News in brief: Early Covid boosters for cancer patients after two months; Ripretinib to be PBS listed for advanced GIST; Four cancer specialists awarded $850,000 fellowships

15 Nov 2021

Early Covid boosters for cancer patients after two months

People with cancer have been reminded of the importance of having a booster dose of Covid vaccine, which may be given as early as two months after completing the primary course of two vaccinations.

At a media briefing on 14 November, Kirsten Pilatti, CEO of the Breast Cancer Network of Australia (BCNA) said it was crucial that people with cancer who were immunocompromised because of treatment received an additional dose of vaccine to provide minimum protection against the virus.,

“Today I want to send a very direct message to anyone, whether you’ve been diagnosed with breast cancer or any other cancers … any other immuno-suppressed. We need you to see the third dose as a very important part of your treatment, not as a booster, but as part of your protection,” she said

“And if someone in your life has been diagnosed with a chronic disease or is in treatment, it is just as essential that you play the role of getting the third dose or the second dose, or the first, to help not only protect yourself, but to protect those people in your life that you love,” she added

Ms Pilatti pointed to ATAGI advice, which recommends that a third dose of COVID-19 vaccine be administered to eligible immunocompromised individuals two to six months after the second dose.

And in exceptional circumstances where more rapid protection is required (e.g. an outbreak setting or a significant increase in immunosuppression such as a patient on chronic immunosuppressive therapy requiring the urgent addition of an additional immunosuppressive agent), ATAGI considers a minimum interval of four weeks between the 2nd and 3rd dose to be acceptable.

ATAGI said it recognised that a longer interval between second and third doses may have confer greater vaccine efficacy. “However, this improved vaccine response needs to be weighed against the possibility that protection against COVID-19 from two doses could remain suboptimal until a third dose is administered,” it advised.

Ripretinib to be PBS listed for advanced GIST

The tyrosine kinase inhibitor ripretinib (Qinlock) will be subsidised for the treatment of people with advanced  gastrointestinal stromal tumour (GIST) from 1 December.

Minister for Health Greg Hunt said the PBS listing would provide access to ripretinib for around 50 people a year who have the rare intestinal canecr, and who would otherwise have to pay $179,000 for the treatment.

Ripretinib was TGA registered in July 2020 for the treatment of adult patients with advanced GIST who have received prior treatment with three or more kinase inhibitors, including imatinib.

Four cancer specialists awarded $850,000 fellowships

Four WA cancer specialists have been awarded $850,000 of funding as part of the WA Cancer and Palliative Care Network (WACPCN) Cancer Fellowship program.

The WA Department of Health funded program supports medical practitioners to expand their experience and skills that will ultimately lead to improved health outcomes for cancer patients.

Dr Nicola O’Neil, a Medical Oncology Clinical Trials Fellow, will use her WACPCN Fellowship to upskill under the supervision of Genetic Services of WA. Dr Ngie Chang Law, a Medical Oncology Registrar, will study cancer, blood and urine samples at Fiona Stanley Hospital with the goal of predicting the best treatments for new bladder cancer patients.

Dr Zi Yun Ng, a Clinical Haematology Registrar, will undertake research at Royal Perth Hospital into genomic instability in myeloproliferative neoplasms (MPN). Dr Kim Kennedy, a Medical Oncology Registrar at Fiona Stanley Hospital, will study the patient and treatment-related factors which contribute to poorer survival rates from head and neck cancers in Aboriginal patients.




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