Archived News for Health Sector Professionals - March, 2012
The Federal Government has announced $2.9 million in funding to support increased access to clinical trials of new drugs, treatments and medical procedures for patients suffering chronic diseases.
Health Minister Tanya Plibersek said that the funding would support the administration of the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) Clinical Trials Centre and the expansion of the centre’s Australia New Zealand Clinical Trial Registry (ANZCTR).
“Clinical trials give tens of thousands of patients access to new and innovative treatments and play a vital part in the fight against disease,” said Ms Plibersek.
Sydney doctor and philanthropist Tom Wenkart has donated $4 million to endow the University of Sydney Wenkart Chair in Endothelium Medicine at the Centenary Institute.
The inaugural Chair is Jennifer Gamble, Professor of Vascular Biology and one of the pioneers of endothelium research.
Professor Gamble's work has already transformed our understanding of the role of endothelial cells.
"Fifty years ago we just regarded blood vessels as simple pipes," she said. "Today we know that they're much more complex - a living, changing organ that rapidly reacts to threats.
"You prick your finger on a rose thorn - within the hour the wound is inflamed and itching as your body mobilises to fight infection. That's the endothelium in action," says Professor Gamble.
These same endothelial cells are implicated when things go wrong in atherosclerosis and auto-immune disease. And tumours need endothelial cells to form blood vessels - without new blood vessels, tumours won't grow.
We each have within us some 80,000 kilometres of pipelines, that carry the essential supplies needed to all parts of our body. The endothelial cells that form this network of blood vessels are essentially a hidden organ weighing about one kilogram.
The endothelial cells maintain these perfect, smooth pipelines year after year but then, when there's an accident they turn into traffic police within minutes, allowing white blood cells to pass through the wall of the blood vessels, and giving emergency services access to the scene.
In 1985, working in Seattle and Adelaide, Professor Gamble showed that if endothelial cells are stimulated then white blood cells bind to them - the start of inflammation.
Now we know much more about the role of these cells in immunity, heart disease, cancer and other conditions. But Professor Gamble says it's still early days in this field of study.
"I hope that, over the next decade or two we'll be able to understand and control the endothelium in diseases — especially inflammation and those associated with ageing such as atherosclerosis and Alzheimer's."
Tom Wenkart says that's what excites him about this field of research. "These endothelial cells play a critical role throughout the body. I believe they're the key to understanding heart disease, for example. What is happening in my body today that could lead to a heart attack in 20 years?"
The Centenary Institute, University of Sydney is an independent leader in medical research seeking improved treatments and cures for cancer, cardiovascular and infectious diseases.
The Federal Government has announced it will invest $719 million to deliver improved primary health care and increase access to dental and allied health care services as part of the Strong Futures package.
An international team of researchers led by the University of Melbourne has used new technology to fast track the discovery of a breast cancer risk gene which could assist in the discovery of other cancer genes.
A full council meeting of the State's peak union body will tonight consider applying an interim Green Ban to work on a former James Hardie site riddled with asbestos at Camelia, in Sydney's west.
Workers in NSW will no longer have to submit urine samples for drug testing, as part of an Australian-first ruling by Fair Work Australia.
NSW is able to enjoy one of the healthiest sex industries ever documented due to the decriminalisation of sex work in NSW combined with a free market approach, according to a report into NSW Health.
A Mental Health Commission designed to deliver international-best practice mental health care in NSW will be established following the passage of the Mental Health Commission Bill 2011 through Parliament.
Minister for Mental Health, Kevin Humphries, said the Mental Health Commission is expected to be operational by July this year.
“In establishing the Mental Health Commission the NSW Government has delivered on one of its most important election commitments,” Mr Humphries said.
“The Mental Health Commission will provide for a more accountable mental health system and work collaboratively with the government and non-government sectors, and the broader community, to ensure a coordinated and integrated approach to mental health care throughout NSW.”
Researchers at Monash University will lead Victoria’s largest study of prostate cancer.
Led by Associate Professor Mark Frydenberg at Monash University, the Cancer of Prostate Translational Research in Victoria (CAPTIV) project has been awarded a $2 million Victorian Cancer Agency research grant.
Experts from Monash University and other institutions, including Melbourne University, Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre, Epworth Health and Ludwig Institute, will investigate the genetic basis of prostate cancer with the aim of developing new pharmaceutical treatments. They will also look at the treatment options for men with low-risk prostate cancer.
Associate Professor Frydenberg said the scale of the CAPTIV project will mean a rapid translation of promising research to viable treatments.
"Being part of the largest collaborative prostate cancer research and trials program undertaken in Victoria to date, our clinicians and researchers will have unique access to clinical specimens. This will allow us to perform better pre-clinical studies of promising drug treatments for early and advanced prostate cancer," Associate Professor Frydenberg said.
"Another benefit is that the CAPTIV project will encourage researchers and clinicians to work together more closely, meaning better outcomes for patients in a shorter timeframe."
Professor Gail Risbridger, CAPTIV project researcher and Research Director of the Monash Comprehensive Cancer Consortium, which supported the CAPTIV project application, said strategic collaboration was vital to effectively combat disease.
“Monash University is invested in providing better outcomes for patients with prostate cancer and that requires the input of Victoria's best people, both in the laboratory and the clinic," Professor Risbridger said.
"The involvement of groups such as the Monash Comprehensive Cancer Consortium, whose member organisations, in addition to carrying out research, treat around 30 per cent of Melbourne's cancer patients, makes bringing together the right researchers and clinicians a more achievable goal. The CAPTIV project is a great example of this.”
The Senate Finance and Public Administration Committees are conducting an inquiry into the National Health Reform Amendment (Administrator and National Health Funding Body) Bill 2012.
The NSW Minister for Health, Jillian Skinner, has released Towards an Aboriginal Health Plan for NSW, a discussion and consultation paper to support the development of a new 10-year plan to improve Aboriginal health.
Health and medical research organization, Research Australia, has launched a new blog facility, ‘Transmission’ that focus principally on the policy and advocacy area.
A study by the Colorado School of public health has shown that pollution caused by hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, may contribute to acute and chronic health problems for those living near natural gas drilling sites.
A new Asia-Pacific Centre for Neuromodulation (APCN) in Brisbane is to be established as a joint initiative of The University of Queensland and St Andrew's War Memorial.
The Asia-Pacific Centre for Neuromodulation will integrate research, education and clinical care, and aims to become the data hub for the region, linking to an international research and clinical database on neuromodulation technology and procedures.
Fair Work Australia has released a report that details a litany of findings against former secretary of the Heath Services Union Victoria Branch Jeff Jackson.
The Tasmanian Minister for Health, Michelle O’Byrne, has announced that Jane Holden has been appointed as permanent CEO of the Southern Tasmania Area Health Service (STAHS).
The Queensland Institute of Medical Research and The University of Queensland have announced a joint research partnership to tackle global problems in infectious diseases research.
The Australian Infectious Diseases Research Centre will bring together researchers from the two organisations to support research into diseases such as malaria, dengue fever and schistosomiasis.
Both organisations have pledged funds to support joint PhD scholarships and to nurture collaborations in infectious diseases research.
The Director of UQ's Australian Infectious Diseases Research Centre, Professor Mark Walker, said the new partnership would leverage the research strengths of both organisations, resulting in new opportunities in health research.
"The combination of expertise from UQ and QIMR will ensure rapid progress is made in the detection, understanding, treatment and prevention of a range of infectious diseases problems," Professor Walker said.
"With a child still dying of malaria on average every minute and Australians constantly under threat from tropical diseases such as dengue fever, we still have a lot of work to do," said Professor James McCarthy, Coordinator of QIMR's Infectious Diseases Program.
"For QIMR, infectious diseases have been the cornerstone of our research with the Institute forming in 1945 to tackle tropical diseases affecting Queenslanders.
"This partnership is testament to the great work currently being undertaken in Queensland and will further strengthen existing collaborations between our two great Institutions.
"It will pave the way for even greater synergies and allow us to use our complementary research strengths.