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.
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.
Wellington, Dec 11 (AP/UNB) — New Zealand's government has passed a law that will make medical marijuana widely available for thousands of patients over time.
The legislation passed Tuesday will also allow terminally ill patients to begin smoking illegal pot immediately without facing the possibility of prosecution.
The measures come ahead of a planned national referendum on recreational marijuana use. The government has pledged to hold that referendum some time over the next two years, but has not yet set a date or finalized the wording.
The new law allows much broader use of medical marijuana, which was previously highly restricted. But patients wanting to use marijuana for conditions like chronic pain will have to wait a year until a new set of regulations, licensing rules and quality standards are put in place.
London, Dec 5 (AP/UNB) — Brazilian doctors are reporting the world's first baby born to a woman with a uterus transplanted from a deceased donor.
Eleven previous births have used a transplanted womb but from a living donor, usually a relative or friend.
Experts said using uteruses from women who have died could make more transplants possible. Ten previous attempts using deceased donors in the Czech Republic, Turkey and the U.S. have failed.
The baby girl was delivered last December by a woman born without a uterus because of a rare syndrome. The woman — a 32-year-old psychologist — was initially apprehensive about the transplant, said Dr. Dani Ejzenberg, the transplant team's lead doctor at the University of Sao Paulo School of Medicine.
"This was the most important thing in her life," he said. "Now she comes in to show us the baby and she is so happy,"
The woman became pregnant through in vitro fertilization seven months after the transplant. The donor was a 45-year-old woman who had three children and died of a stroke.
The recipient, who was not identified, gave birth by cesarean section. Doctors also removed the womb, partly so the woman would no longer have to take anti-rejection medicines. Nearly a year later, mother and baby are both healthy.
Two more transplants are planned as part of the Brazilian study. Details of the first case were published Tuesday in the medical journal Lancet.
Uterus transplantation was pioneered by Swedish doctor Mats Brannstrom, who has delivered eight children from women who got wombs from family members or friends. Two babies have been born at Baylor University Medical Center in Texas and one in Serbia, also from transplants from living donors.
In 2016, doctors at the Cleveland Clinic transplanted a uterus from a deceased donor, but it failed after an infection developed.
"The Brazilian group has proven that using deceased donors is a viable option," said the clinic's Dr. Tommaso Falcone, who was involved in the Ohio case. "It may give us a bigger supply of organs than we thought were possible."
The Cleveland program is continuing to use deceased donors. Falcone said the fact that the transplant was successful after the uterus was preserved in ice for nearly eight hours demonstrated how resilient the uterus is. Doctors try to keep the time an organ is without blood flow to a minimum.
Other experts said the knowledge gained from such procedures might also solve some lingering mysteries about pregnancies.
"There are still lots of things we don't understand about pregnancies, like how embryos implant," said Dr. Cesar Diaz, who co-authored an accompanying commentary in the journal. "These transplants will help us understand implantation and every stage of pregnancy."