Canberra, Dec 19 (Xinhua/UNB) -A "revolutionary" cancer drug that supercharges immune cells to hunt and kill cancer cells has been approved for human use in Australia.
The Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) on Wednesday announced that CAR-T therapy has been approved for use in pediatric and young adult patients with B-cell precursor acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) and adults with diffuse large B cell lymphoma (DLBCL).
CAR-T therapy trains immune cells to fight and kill cancer cells by first extracting them from a patient's body to genetically re-engineer them before infusing them back into the body.
Prior to the TGA approving the treatment, patients with aggressive blood cancers who had exhausted all other treatments had been traveling overseas to be treated.
Daniel Clarke, 45, traveled with his family to the United States so he could receive CAR-T treatment for his DLBCL. Within one month his cancer had vanished.
"I felt like someone had just handed my life back to me," he told Fairfax Media on Wednesday.
"It has all happened so quickly. Late September we (went to Boston) not knowing what to expect, hoping for the best, fearing the worst. Then come November I was in complete remission."
Global pharmaceutical giant Novartis owns the therapy and has already increased production to keep up with global demand.
"We are focused on ramping up capacity at our U.S. and Switzerland facilities and we recently announced a collaboration agreement for additional manufacturing capacity with Fraunhofer (Germany) and CellforCure (France)," spokesperson Lauren Carey said.
"These additional manufacturing facilities are intended to support production on a global scale."
However, CAR-T therapy is not classified as a "drug", so it cannot be subsidized by the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme.
Patients who undergo the treatment in Australia face an out-of-pocket cost of up to 598,000 Australian dollars.
Greg Hunt, Australia's Minister for Health, has flagged his intention to have the treatment subsidized as soon as possible.
Bangkok, Dec 17 (AP/UNB) — The Philippines' Catriona Gray was named Miss Universe 2018 in a competition concluding Monday in Bangkok, besting contestants from 93 other countries and delighting her home country.
The 24-year-old Gray wore a sparkling red dress she said is inspired by a volcano in the Philippines as she was handed the crown to the delight of a roaring crowd that generally favored Southeast Asian contestants.
She said she wore red because "when I was 13 my mom said she had a dream that I would win Miss Universe in a red dress." She said her mom cried when they saw each other after she won the competition.
Gray edged out first runner-up Tamaryn Green of South Africa and third-place Sthefany Gutierrez of Venezuela. She succeeds Demi-Leigh Nel-Peters of South Africa.
In the Philippines, pageants are a popular attraction, and Gray's countrymen cheered wildly and jumped for joy when she was declared the winner. Celebrations were especially buoyant in Oas town in the northeastern province of Albay, from which Gray's Filipina mother hails.
The office of Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte was quick to congratulate the winner. Gray is the fourth Filipina to be named Miss Universe.
"Ms. Gray truly made the entire Philippines proud when she sashayed on the global stage and showcased the genuine qualities defining a Filipina beauty: confidence, grace, intelligence and strength in the face of tough challenges," he said in a statement from the presidential palace. "In her success, Miss Philippines has shown to the world that women in our country have the ability to turn dreams into reality through passion, diligence, determination and hard work."
An early round of questioning touched on the issue of drugs, where Duterte's aggressive 'war on drugs' has taken thousands of lives, many in what critics charge were extrajudicial executions. Duterte raised even more controversy when he recently joked that he smoked marijuana to deal with the busy schedule of meetings with other Asian leaders at a regional summit.
Asked what she thought about legalizing marijuana, Gray said: "I'm for it being used for medical use, but not so for recreational use. Because I think if people will argue, then what about alcohol and cigarettes? Everything is good but in moderation."
This year's Miss Universe competition included the first-ever transgender contestant, Miss Spain Angela Ponce. She said in a video presentation that it was not important for her to win but was more important for her "to be here."
One of the few controversies of this year's contest involved Miss United States Sarah Rose Summers seeming to mock contestants from Cambodia and Vietnam over their English language skills. Summers apologized.
The finale was again hosted by Steve Harvey who infamously announced the wrong winner in the 2015 contest. Harvey joked briefly about the incident in exchanges with contestants and said "You all can't let that go" and "I'm still here."
The theme of the 67th Miss Universe pageant was "Empowered Women" and was judged by seven women including former pageant winners, businesswomen, and a fashion designer.
The contestants spent nearly a month in Thailand to compete in preliminary rounds wearing elaborate national costumes, visit famous tourist sites and even met the country's prime minister.
Egypt, Dec 16 (AP/UNB) — Egypt on Saturday announced the discovery of a private tomb belonging to a senior official from the 5th dynasty of the pharaohs, which ruled roughly 4,400 years ago.
Antiquities Minister Khaled al-Anani announced the find at the site of the tomb in Saqqara, just west of Cairo, which is also home to the famed Step Pyramid.
He said drawings on the tomb's walls were "exceptionally well-preserved." The drawings depicted the official and his family, he added.
The tomb also contained a total of 45 statues carved in rock. Again, they depict the official and his family.
In recent years, Egypt has heavily promoted new archaeological finds to international media and diplomats in the hope of attracting more tourists to the country. The vital tourism sector has suffered from the years of political turmoil and violence that followed a 2011 uprising that toppled autocrat Hosni Mubarak.
New York, Dec 15 (AP/UNB) — Johnson & Johnson on Friday forcefully denied a media report that it knew for decades about the existence of trace amounts of asbestos in its baby powder.
The report by the Reuters news service sent the company's shares into a tailspin, suffering their worst one-day sell-off in 16 years.
Reuters cited documents released as part of a lawsuit by plaintiffs claiming that the product can be linked to ovarian cancer. The New Brunswick, New Jersey company has battled in court against such claims and on Friday called the Reuters report "one-sided, false and inflammatory."
Johnson & Johnson's stock fell $14.84, or 10 percent, to close Friday at $133, its most severe single-day decline since 2002.
In the report, Reuters noted documents show consulting labs as early as 1957 and 1958 found asbestos in J&J talc. Further reports by the company and outside labs showed similar findings through the early 2000s, according to the Reuters story.
In its statement Friday, Johnson & Johnson said "thousands of independent tests by regulators and the world's leading labs prove our baby powder has never contained asbestos."
Washington, Dec 14 (AP/UNB) — Melania Trump spread her anti-bullying message on an annual Christmas season visit to a Washington children's hospital on Thursday, reading a story about a Christmas ornament named Oliver who is bullied by other ornaments in a family's collection.
"Wishing you a Merry Christmas and a happy and healthy new year," the first lady said after she finished reading "Oliver the Ornament" at Children's National Health System. The author, Todd Zimmerman, sat a few feet away.
Mrs. Trump launched an initiative earlier this year to teach kindness to children, naming it Be Best.
Zimmerman thanked the first lady "from the bottom of my heart" for inviting him to be part of the visit, an annual tradition that dates to first lady Bess Truman, who served in the role from the mid-1940s to 1953.
"It is such an honor and I'm humbled by your kindness," Zimmerman added. "I also want to thank you for everything you do to promote kindness through your Be Best foundation and all of your daily activities. It's that same type of kindness that we're trying to promote with 'Oliver the Ornament' and it's that same message that I hope all of you receive this Christmas season and throughout the entire year."
Mrs. Trump is using the initiative to encourage children and young people to be kind online.
The first lady recently told ABC News during an interview in which she promoted Be Best that she could be "the most bullied person" in the world, judging by "what people are saying about me." Critics have pointed out that her husband, President Donald Trump, routinely mocks people on Twitter.
Before taking a seat in front of a towering Christmas tree in the hospital's atrium, Mrs. Trump toured part of the neonatal intensive care unit and met with three families and children who had been treated there after they were born prematurely at 24 weeks.
The two boys and one girl, ages 16 months to 6 years old, each weighed about 1 pound (0.45 kilograms) at birth.
Mrs. Trump sat with the families while the children played and listened as Nikki Watkinson told the story of her son Grayson's early delivery in her husband's truck during a snowstorm.
"You will have an incredible story to tell him," the first lady replied.