Blood cancer: Caroline’s trial first could lead the way for others

Caroline Hangay has a rare blood cancer. Photo: Justin McManus Caroline Hangay is the first Australian to join a clinical trail at Peter Mac. Photo: Justin McManus
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Caroline Hangay has a rare blood cancer called acute myeloid leukaemia. If she had to choose a type of cancer to be saddled with, she says, this one would not be it.

“If I had to choose a cancer, I’d choose breast cancer because we know so much about it,” the 35-year-old said.

As the first Australian to participate in an international clinical trial for a new treatment for this aggressive form of cancer, the mother of one hopes that will soon change.

Diagnosed in March 2014, Mrs Hangay said three types of chemotherapy failed to improve her condition. The doctor treating her, Michael Dickinson, suggested she sign up to participate in a clinical trial he was involved with.

“I went in thinking that if it doesn’t help me, then at least it contributes to finding new treatments or even an eventual cure for this cancer,” she said.

Thirteen weeks into the trial and the signs are promising. Mrs Hangay still has to undergo blood transfusions twice a week, but she has halved the number of bags  she needs, which has cut her time spent in the chair to three or four hours.

She is no longer undergoing chemotherapy, which used to put her in hospital for weeks, due to the devastating impact the treatment had on her immune system.

“It means I can spend more time at home with my two-year-old and my husband, and that also means that I get some normality back in my life,” she said.

The human trial, being conducted in Australia at the Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre, is the result of eight years of research led by consultant haematologist Mark Dawson.

Associate Professor Dawson said the trial, for patients who have exhausted all other options, would determine the highest dose of a new drug that can be safely delivered without too many side effects.

Mrs Hangay is the first of dozens of Australian trial participants, with human trials also taking place in London, Cambridge, New York and Texas.

He said the epigenetic drug being trialled worked by manipulating the way the body “reads its barcode”, which effectively switches off cancer-causing genes. Epigenetics is the study of cellular variations that are not caused by changes in the DNA sequence.

Associate Professor Dawson said the drug would be delivered in tablet form.

“This is likely to change the way we treat some of these patients and while there is no one tablet that can cure cancer, this can be used in combination with other treatments,” he said.

Acute myeloid leukaemia reduces the number red and white blood cells produced by the body, with symptoms including tiredness, shortness of breath and being prone to bruising. Around 900 Australians are diagnosed with acute myeloid leukaemia a year. It’s a rare cancer, accounting for 0.8 per cent of all cancers diagnosed, according to the Leukaemia Foundation.

Mrs Hangay said she found participating in the clinical trial a positive experience. However, fewer Victorians are signing up for trials.

Figures released by Cancer Council Victoria on Wednesday reveal a worrying trend, with the percentage of cancer patients participating in clinical trials stalling at between 6 and 7 per cent since the 1990s.

In contrast, participation rates in Britain have risen from 4 per cent to 17 per cent in the past decade alone.

“Clinical trials are an essential step in transforming laboratory research findings into better health care for cancer patients,” the council’s clinical network deputy chair, Orla McNally, said.

In 2008 the Victorian government set a target of 15 per cent patient participation by 2020.

 

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Soft budget and rate cuts bring swinging voters back to Abbott government

Prime Minister Tony Abbott. Photo: Kate Geraghty Prime Minister Tony Abbott. Photo: Kate Geraghty
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Prime Minister Tony Abbott. Photo: Kate Geraghty

Prime Minister Tony Abbott. Photo: Kate Geraghty

Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s second budget has been much better received than his first. Photo: Alex Ellinghausen

Tony Abbott poses for photos with members of the Sydney Young Chinese Business Association. Photo: Kate Geraghty

Sketch: 100 days on Tony Abbott discovers the ‘good government’ trickAnalysis: Tony Abbott cuts through to those who will count on polling day

Swinging voters driven to back Labor by the unfairness of the Abbott government’s first hard-cutting budget have swung back after a “softer and milder” 2015 budget giving them “less to worry about”.

Exclusive focus group testing of the nation’s swinging voters commissioned by Fairfax Media shows the 2015 budget was viewed in direct comparison to the 2014 budget and was marked favourably because it contained far less “direct pain”, prompting voters to say the Prime Minister Tony Abbott and Treasurer Joe Hockey had “learnt their lesson”.

It comes as economic conditions for households also align more favourably for the government with the minutes of this month’s Reserve Bank board’s meeting leaving open the possibility of yet another rate cut to follow the one in May.

The two factors have driven consumer confidence higher than at any time since November according to the ANZ-Roy Morgan Australian Consumer Confidence index, which recorded a 3.4 per cent spike since the budget and a cumulative rating of 114.6 – which is above the long-term average of 112.7.

The results explain why the government has begun to claw back support in middle-Australia, suggesting it can survive if it maximises the advantages of office between now and the election.

Exclusive post-budget qualitative research commissioned by Fairfax Media, and using the identical methodologies approved by the major parties, has found voters expected worse and felt a “sense of relief” when the 2015 budget avoided deep cuts and contained $10 billion in spending for childcare and small business.

And it found the measure to provide $20,000 instant asset write-offs for new small business purchases to be “the icon item”.

The research was undertaken by the political market researcher Tony Mitchelmore, who also does such market testing for the ALP among other clients.

Voters participating in the four focus group discussions were specifically selected for their history as past Labor voters who had switched to support the Coalition in 2013.

Two sessions each were held in Melbourne and in Sydney.

“These are the critical voters both sides of politics will be focusing on in their research and messaging,” Mr Mitchelmore said.

“They are the voters Tony Abbott and the Liberals have to keep to hold power and who Labor need to win back to regain it.”

He said the difference between the tone of swinging voter discussions in 2015 to 2014 was stark.

“Last year the temperature after the budget was red-hot, this year, it was milder, there was less fear and anger involved,” he said.

Key words and phrases that emerged among the welter of responses to the budget shone a light on which political messages cut through to voters and which ones glanced off.

Mr Mitchelmore said the strongest positive cut-through of the budget was the small business package, which achieved what market researchers call “talk ability” and which prompted a strong level of recall with specific mention of the $20,000 deduction figure.

“Things like the small business tax cut is brilliant,” said one woman in the video-taped sessions.

Another noted that the asset write-off would allow cafes and businesses to buy table, chairs, and so on.

“I think it’s good because we need a bit of stimulus in the economy,” she said.

Debt and deficit also featured in discussions but respondents said it was the speed of the repayment that needed to be considered in order to avoid immediate hardship.

“People understand the debt has to be paid, but don’t want it all at once, they’d rather spread the pain,” said one woman.

However, another felt the situation was even worse than it is.

“We’re in a good position, only in relation to Greece,” she said. ” I mean it’s crap [the situation], because we owe so much money.”

Voters appear to want their politicians to be at once more sensitive to voter concerns, and more determined to ride roughshod over them to do what has to be done.

“I don’t think they’ve got any backbone left in them any more,” opined one female voter.

“They’re not game to carry out whatever needs to be done, or to do what they say they were going to do because as soon as the opinion polls go skew-wiff, they’re gone – politicians aren’t game any more to follow through.”

Opinion polls conducted since the budget have charted a recovery with the recent Fairfax-Ispos poll putting the government on even standing with the opposition and showing Mr Abbott ahead of Labor’s Bill Shorten as preferred prime minister for the first time in a year.

The RBA’s May minutes left open the possibility of more interest rate relief in June when deciding on the May cut to a cash rate of 2 per cent.

“Members agreed that … the statement communicating the decision would not contain any guidance on the future path of monetary policy,” its minutes said.

“Members did not see this as limiting the board’s scope for any action that might be appropriate at future meetings.”

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Tony Abbott cuts through to those who will count on polling day

The jump in consumer confidence is a positive result for Joe Hockey and Tony Abbott, given the criticism that came their way after the 2014 budget. Photo: Alex EllInghausen The jump in consumer confidence is a positive result for Joe Hockey and Tony Abbott, given the criticism that came their way after the 2014 budget. Photo: Alex EllInghausen
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The jump in consumer confidence is a positive result for Joe Hockey and Tony Abbott, given the criticism that came their way after the 2014 budget. Photo: Alex EllInghausen

The jump in consumer confidence is a positive result for Joe Hockey and Tony Abbott, given the criticism that came their way after the 2014 budget. Photo: Alex EllInghausen

Soft budget and rate cuts bring swinging voters back to Abbott government100 days on Tony Abbott discovers the ‘good government’ trick

Tony Abbott’s fortunes may have shifted on to a positive track at last after a self-imposed 14 months of electoral self-harm.

It is hardly surprising that a softer budget has brought less resistance. But it’s the alignment of that with other factors that could pave the way to a second conservative term.

These include record low interest rates, cheaper electricity and even lower petrol prices – albeit rising – and the advent of a government which is no longer committed to causing pain in voter-land. And it may not end there with even lower mortgage rates now a distinct possibility.

On Monday, government ministers awoke to the pleasant news that a budget which had played down last year’s fiscal fortitude and played up handouts and tax-breaks had done what a thousand excuses could not: turning around the government’s miserable fortunes and putting it back in the race.

Tuesday brought further evidence of the switch with the ANZ-Roy Morgan Consumer Confidence index jumping a solid 3.6 per cent last week in the wake of the budget, to its highest level since November.

This is a result for Abbott and for Treasurer Joe Hockey, given the tsunami of criticism that had inundated the pair since a heroically ideological 2014 budget.

It is also vindication for their new short-term economic imperative of jump-starting activity with a mix of positivity and policy purpose.

While spending restraint has been put on the back burner, and might have been junked altogether, the government is now banking on two things: the electoral dividend of government spending and the fiscal dividend of improved economic growth. Growth it seems, is the new weapon against the deficit – which is perhaps how it should have been all along.

Now, there’s the Mitchelmore focus group research which shows swinging voters – the very ones who abandoned Labor in 2013 and who were shaping to do the same to Abbott – could stick around for the next election after all.

In a strange irony, it is the sheer harshness of 2014 that has elevated the 2015 budget into the realm of fair and reasonable. The results, in terms of polls, consumer confidence and swinging voter responses, speak convincingly to that fact.

The question is, is this a sugar hit or the start of a sustained upswing in the national mood? The result of the next election, whenever it is, will turn on the answer to that.

A happy and relaxed consumer tends to be a happy and relaxed voter and guess what? A happy and relaxed voter tends to stick with the status quo. Who knew?

Well, Abbott for one, even if he had somehow let his solid 2013 election victory become hubris.

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Overnight burglary spree in Ballarat

THIEVES burgled five Ballarat premises in a cross-city crime spree early on Tuesday morning.
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Pipers by the Lake, Ballarat Community Health Centre and Liberty, Caltex and Coles Express service stations were burgled.

The crime wave swept through Lake Wendouree, Delacombe, Warrenheip, Wendouree and Lucas between 1am and 4.30am.

The burglaries follow a spate of thefts that have hit the Ballarat region in recent weeks.

Ballarat Police Criminal Investigation Unit said it was investigating the five burglaries, but as of Tuesday afternoon had not arrested or charged anyone.

The Courier understands the five burglaries could be linked, but police could not confirm this.

The crime spree is believed to have begun at Pipers by the Lake at Lake Wendouree at1am.

It is believed the thief broke into the premises twice, first at 1am and again at 4.30am to take two bottles of alcohol and one biscuit.

Pipers by the Lake management, who did not wish to comment about the burglary, provided CCTV footage to police.

Ballarat Community Health Centre chief executive Robyn Reeves confirmed the Lucas centre had been broken into on Tuesday at 1.30am.

Ms Reeves said a hooded-offender smashed through the centre’s cafe window to gain entry and attempted to steal cash, but was unsuccessful.

“There was quite a bit of damage to the window,” she

said. “(The offender) was only in the building for a couple of minutes and then left.”

Ms Reeves said the cafe had not been operational and there was no cash left on premises.

Police said the Liberty service station, at Dowling and Norman streets in Wendouree, Caltex, at Latrobe street in Delacombe, and Coles Express, at the Western Highway in Warrenheip, were also broken into overnight.

Ballarat Police called for anyone with information about the five burglaries to contact Crime Stoppers by telephoning 1800 333 000 or submit a report online atcrimestoppers南京夜网419论坛

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Another recruitment drive for 110 child protection workers

The campaign to recruit 110 child protection workers for Victoria begins this week.
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On Wednesday Families and Children Minister Jenny Mikakos will meet students at RMIT University to encourage them to pursue a career in child protection.

Ms Mikakos said Labor’s latest budget provided the “biggest boost to child protection in a decade”.

“It means more workers, more assistance and more support for carers and children,” she said.

The Department of Human Services’ most recent annual report showed there were 21,231 investigations into allegations or other concerns about a child’s safety.

The report also showed almost 13 per cent of children in the child protection system for 2013/14 had not been allocated a child protection worker.

In recent years child protection workers have reported suffering from extreme stress amid huge workloads.

An advertising campaign will begin on Saturday, including advertisements in newspapers. The government will also advertise internationally.

The recruitment campaign will focus on new graduates and those with senior level skills and experience.

The government said it was investing $283 million over four years on programs and services for vulnerable children and families.

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