News in brief: Medical oncologist appointed to Cancer Australia role; Opioid stewardship standards released for consultation; Healthcare staff vaccination reduces COVID-19 transmission 

13 Sep 2021

Medical oncologist appointed to Cancer Australia role

A medical oncologist and a haematologist specialising in treatment of leukaemia have been newly appointed to Cancer Australia’s Advisory Council for a three-year term.

Dr Ranjana Srivastava, a medical oncologist at Monash Health, Melbourne, and Professor Timothy Hughes, Cancer Theme Leader at the South Australian Health and Medical Research Institute (SAHMRI), have joined the Council, chaired by medical oncologist Professor Tracey O’Brien, Director of the Kids Cancer Centre and Head of the Transplant and Cellular Therapies Program at Sydney Children’s Hospital. Other Council members include Dr Benjamin Brady, medical oncologist in the Skin and Melanoma Service at Peter Mac, Melbourne, and Dr Chris Milross, director of Radiation Oncology and Medical Services at Chris O’Brien Lifehouse, Sydney.

Six current members were reappointed to the Council, including cancer epidemiologist Professor Joanne Aitken, gynaecological oncologist Associate Professor Penny Blomfield, head and neck surgeon Associate Professor Kelvin Kong and radiation oncologist Dr Serena Sia.

“The appointments are drawn from Australia’s world-class scientific and medical community and possess a diverse skills set to support Cancer Australia’s strategic focus on cancer control and care, “said Federal Minister for Health Greg Hunt.

Opioid stewardship standards released for consultation

A draft standard for opioid analgesic stewardship in acute pain clinical care is currently open for consultation.

Clinicians are encouraged to comment on the Australian Commission on Safety and Quality in Health Care’s proposed standard, which features nine quality statements and a set of indicators to support its implementation.

Under the standard, clinicians would need to share pharmacological and non-pharmacological treatment decision making with patients and carers and prescribe analgesics based on an individual patient’s function, pain intensity and opioid-related harm risk.

“An opioid analgesic can be used if the potential benefit outweighs the potential harm,” the standard read.

Patients on opioid analgesics should be managed according to a locally approved treatment pathway to mitigate potential opioid-related harm if they are at increased risk, and assessed regularly to ensure the treatment is effective, safe and appropriate for the patient’s stage of care, it said.

Healthcare staff vaccination reduces COVID-19 transmission

In findings described reassuring for healthcare workers and their families, a UK study has provided evidence suggesting that COVID-19 vaccination of healthcare staff reduces transmission within their household.

Researchers in the UK evaluated data from almost 200,000 household members of 144,525 health care workers in Scotland who worked from March to November 2020.

At the time of the study, 78% of healthcare workers had received at least one dose of either Pfizer or the AstraZeneca vaccine, and 25% had received a second dose.

The analysis found that risk of COVID-19 among household members of vaccinated health care workers was 30% lower (Hazard Ratio 0.70) after the first dose and more than 50% lower (HR 0.46) after the second dose of vaccine.

The effect of vaccination may have been larger because the analysis did not cover risk of transmission from sources outside the household, the researchers wrote in NEJM.

“Given that vaccination reduces asymptomatic infection with SARS-CoV-2, it is plausible that vaccination reduces transmission,” said the researchers led by Dr Anoop Shah of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.



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