Scientists ‘switch on’ the devil’s immune system to kill deadly tumour

Tasmanian Devil-Jenny Gray, Zoos Victoria CEO at Healesville sanctuary, story on species triage. 20th of March 2014 The Age news Picture by JOE ARMAO Photo: Joe ArmaoTasmanian devils with tumours the size of golf balls have had their cancerous growths disappear, after scientists successfully trialled a new way to kick-start the animals’ immune system.

“At the end of three months there was nothing there, just a bit of scar tissue” said Menzies Institute for Medical Research immunologist Greg Woods.

The new approach works by alerting the animal’s immune system to the presence of the deadly cancer, which is normally able to fly under the radar.

Known as devil facial tumour disease, the highly infectious cancer kills devils within three to five months of the facial tumours first appearing.

However the devils in the trial had their tumours vanish – three months after being injected with live cancer cells.

“It sounds a bit counterintuitive because we are treating a cancer with a cancer,” Professor Woods said.

The difference was that the live cancer cells injected also contained hormones found in the immune system called cytokines. These made the immune system recognise the cancer as a foreign body prompting the body’s footsoldiers, or T-cells, to attack.

“It acted like a switch and turned the immune system on,” Professor Woods said.

Better still, the researchers could see what was happening under the microscope: they took a biopsy of the tumour and observed immune cells flooding the tumour site.

“It was just amazing, within a week the whole tumour was just surrounded,” Professor Woods said. “The tumour was killed very quickly.”

Three of the five Tasmanian devils injected with the live cancer cells containing the immune system hormones had their tumours vanish. The three devils were monitored for a year after the tumours disappeared and there was no evidence that the cancer returned.

Scientists speculate that the two devils which didn’t respond could have failed to have their immune system activated because the cytokines could have been added too early and suppressed an immune response.

Nevertheless Professor Woods said the results of the study, published in the journal Scientific Reports, confirm that the best way to tame the fatal cancer was by tapping into the devil’s own immune system.

“The exciting thing is that we are working towards a vaccine and for a vaccine to work, the immune system has to target the tumour cells and kill them,” Professor Woods said. “We now have evidence that that can happen.”

The devil facial tumour disease was first documented in 1996. Then there were tens of thousands of devils living in Tasmania. In the years since, between 90 per cent and 95 per cent of devils have disappeared. Just a few thousand remain and the species was listed by the federal government as endangered in 2009.

Former Knight Zane Tetevano returns to the NRL after domestic violence conviction

FORMER Knights forward Zane Tetevano made a sudden and brutalimpact on debut for the Roosters in their 28-24 win against Canterburyat Allianz Stadium on Thursday night.

ELUSIVE: Roosters centre Latrell Mitchell on the attack against the Bulldogs on Thursday night. Picture: Getty Images

Tetevano, sacked by Newcastle in 2014 and de-registered by the NRL after being convicted ofassaulting his former girlfriend, played for Wyong last season before being thrown an NRL lifeline by the Roosters.

He played 29 games for the Knights between 2011 and 2014.

With the match hanging in the balance at 22-18 and the Bulldogs on the attack, Tetevanohit Canterbury fullback Will Hopoate with a crunching 67th-minute tackle that involved a head clash.

A bloodied Hopoate was helped off the field. A try by Roosters back-rower Mitch Aubusson five minutes later gave the Roosters a convincing 28-18 lead.

But when Canterbury’s Josh Morris scored his second try in the 77thminute, the visitors were back within four points.

Canterburywinger Kerrod Holland –who was playingfor Cessnock two years ago – suffered a shoulder injury scoring the opening try.

Holland, who helped the Knights win the 2015 NSW Cup grand final before joining Canterbury last season, dived over in the corner in the third minute and got up clutching his shoulder.

Canterbury extended their lead eight minutes later through Josh Morris, but from then on it was a Roosters procession.

Winger Daniel Tupouscored a double before half-time and Boyd Corder also dived over to make it 16-8 at the break. When Test centre Blake Ferguson scored in the 47thminute, the Bulldogs were facing a 22-8 deficit.

A Brett Morris try in the 52ndminute got the visitors back into the contest. When Adam Elliott crashed through in the 63rdminute, it was 22-18 and anyone’s game.

The result left the Roosters undefeated after two rounds and Canterbury searching for their first win.

Not worth educating? The challenge facing seriously sick kids

Lachie* has been on the brink of starting school three times. At three years-old, the little boy was diagnosed with leukemia. Overnight the family’s world was blown apart, but they were reassured by doctors telling them to expect that after two years of treatment, he would be in the 80 per cent who recover fully.

Except he wasn’t.

At the end of two years, as the family excitedly planned for him to begin his school days, there was more bad news. Things hadn’t worked as planned; there had been a recurrence and he would need a bone marrow transplant and other treatment over the next 12 months.

This was the start of a gruelling medical rollercoaster for Lachie and his family, which was to include two more recurrences of the cancer, a second bone marrow transplant, extensive radiation therapy, chemotherapy and experimental drug treatments. In the midst of that was a third false start at school.

It was also the beginning of their battle to keep him educated, despite his stop-start schooling.

At 16, Lachie is now fully recovered from the cancer. For most of the past six years he has been at school full time. Of course, most of his peers have been at school, uninterrupted, for at least 11 years. That big difference has taken a toll.

Jane* says her son is slowly catching up in areas such as literacy and science, but in social skills, confidence and general independence, he is far behind his classmates.

Over the years there has been “wonderful kindness” from friends, family and the school, but also huge gaps and ignorance. In most children’s hospitals, there are hospital-schools for when children are well enough to do some study – to stop them from falling too far behind their peers, as well as taking their minds off the illness and treatment. But this can also can end up being yet another thing for parents to juggle.

“When you’ve had two or three hours sleep and someone fronts up at the bedside with a little booklet for you to do with your son, it can just be too much,” Jane says.

Teachers and schools have at times done “beautiful things” for her son, and Jane will be forever grateful, but there have also been misunderstandings and bad luck along the way.

Lachie was often at high risk of infection and had to be kept apart from other kids. When he could be with his classmates at school, he was also often exhausted and unable to manage full days.

“People say, ‘just enrol them in distance education’, but is an isolated kid who can’t function normally really the best kid for distance education? They desperately need some social interaction. I would have loved to be able to Skype into the classroom.”

An estimated 60,000 kids around Australia are missing out on large blocks of school due to significant illness or injury, (not including kids with mental health issues). For some, hospital visits or time recovering at home mean a block of weeks or months away from the classroom. Others may face regular absences over their whole school life.

There is a bureaucratic name for it: “non-negligible school absence”, but behind that jargon is kids battling diseases such as cancer, cystic fibrosis and epilepsy, shuttling between hospitals, home and school, and often travelling interstate and between cities for treatment.

Parents say these children are slipping through the cracks, with neither disability, health nor education agencies taking full responsibility for keeping them connected to learning and their peers, and poor co-ordination between the services involved.

“These poor children are often falling flat onto the pavement because no one is stepping forward to catch them”, says Stephen Bartos from the research collective ARACY.

Megan Jackson, lead researcher on ARACY’s Australian first study into inter-agency collaboration around sick children and education, , says it is telling there is no official statistic for the number of children in this position. Just as different departments fail to categorise or count these kids, many are unsure that it is their job to educate them.

“The responsibility for educating children at school lies with schools, the responsibility for determining whether a child is well enough to go to school lies with doctors and the responsibility for getting kids to school lies with parents,” Ms Jackson says.

While most children’s hospitals around Australia have schools for children who stay a long time or must be there for regular treatment, their approach varies hugely and their involvement mostly stops when children leave hospital. And with advances in medicine, many more children are surviving critical and chronic diseases and being sent home to recover after shorter stays for procedures such as bone marrow transplant and chemotherapy.

In an added layer of complexity, many critically ill children travel interstate for regular treatment, meaning responsibility for their education crosses not just different departments but also state jurisdictions.

Ms Jackson suspects many families of seriously ill children give up trying to keep them educated, overwhelmed by the stress of dealing with the illness, and unable to take on the role of co-ordinating the various bodies who may be able to provide learning support.

Her research will look at the model of having a lead worker for families, to co-ordinate their child’s learning and keep them in touch with school and peers, for example through Skype calls.

Megan Gilmour, whose son missed more than 18 months of school due to a bone marrow transplant, says support for children recovering at home is a matter of good (or bad) luck, depending on the attitude of individual schools and teachers.

“We’re often not at home, we’re in hospitals, we’re interstate, we’re at appointments and we’re under huge stress having a seriously ill child.”

Ms Gilmour is also frustrated by the resistance from many schools to using technology such as Skype and real time digital connection to keep kids connected to their classrooms, teachers and peers.

“This is not at all about bashing up schools or teachers, it’s about getting the specific policy and standards in place from education departments so that schools know what they have to do.”

Ms Gilmour co-founded the parent lobby group Missing School in 2012 after realising that her struggles to keep her son connected to education were not unique. “We had done everything we could to keep him educated through his illness but he was losing hope. We had to show him that he had a future, that he was worth educating”.

She says seriously ill children who miss a lot of school are “invisible”.

“One of the first questions we asked was how many kids are missing school because they’re seriously ill, that was unclear. We asked what is available to them from education departments and schools, who parents in this position should call, that was unclear. There is no consistent model, no best practice ??? the governance is absent”.

Parents argue that children are not just missing out on learning, they are also missing out on crucial social and emotional development and the general confidence and wellbeing that comes from staying connected to their peers – everything from rough and tumble in the playground to teens hanging out with mates. Research shows these gaps have short and long term, negative impacts on their development.

“When my son returned to school he was a mess. He’d gone from being a high functioning student to someone who could barely function in the school environment. There was the trauma from what he had been through medically but there was also the effect of social isolation and being apart from his school and his peers,” Ms Gilmour says.

Many children who return to school also struggle with the long-term effects of treatment and side effects of medication and may be easily tired, vulnerable to infection and illness and even have lower cognitive function due to some invasive treatments such as radiation therapy on the brain.

Parents who contact Missing School are often grateful for the support of charities such as Ronald MacDonald House, who help with support such as tutoring or transport to school. But Ms Gilmour argues it ought not be the role of charities to ensure children stay educated, a legal responsibility outlined in both state and federal legislation.

“We don’t want to be talking about one-off programs or charities here and there. This sits with education departments, it has to be stable and scalable, it has to be governed by all the checks and balances.”

A spokesman for the Victorian education department said the department provides funding to five hospital-based education services that provide in-patient and out-patient support for seriously ill students and the government recently announced a new $6.8 million Monash Children’s Hospital School.

He said schools supported students through illness in may ways including wellbeing officers, school nurses and, for students with complex medical needs, customised support plans and additional assistance.

Missing School is supporting the ARACY research, which will define what should be happening in practice for supporting seriously ill children absent from school. The parent lobby group is also calling for policies backed by resources and clear arrangements between education and health. It is pushing for real-time digital connection in classrooms.

Ms Gilmour says at the heart of the issue is the community’s ethical responsibility. “We’re putting these kids through a lot of pain and suffering to save their lives, and saving lives is absolutely the right thing, but if we don’t prepare them for a future, what are we doing to them. We’re turning out a lot of people who are mended but still suffering.”

*Names changed at their request

Serial conman Peter Foster deemed ‘unacceptable flight risk’ and denied bail

A serial conman who allegedly ripped off investors through an online betting agency and funnelled millions of dollars overseas will remain behind bars because he poses an unacceptable flight risk.

Peter Foster made a bid for bail on Thursday, three weeks after he was arrested in Queensland accused of being the “mastermind” behind the Sports Trading Club (STC).

It is alleged Mr Foster posed as someone involved in the company under the alias “Mark Hughes” in 2013 and encouraged a South African-born investor to deposit money into accounts, including one offshore, linked to STC.

The investor was allegedly told he was investing in STC obtaining a licence in South Africa. He spoke to “Hughes” daily and monitored his investment online, a statement of facts tendered in court showed.

The Western Australian-based man allegedly poured more than $1 million into STC, not a cent of which he received back.

Mr Foster appeared via audio-visual link in Sydney’s Central Local Court on Thursday where his bail was denied after a magistrate found he was an unacceptable flight risk.

The prosecution submitted police found something of an “escape kit” buried in Mr Foster’s back yard, including an Irish passport and Medicare card.

However Mr Foster’s counsel John Young said the passport was useless as it was published in the media.

Due to a pending civil claim, Mr Foster was aware of the allegations against him for years but chose to stay in Australia.

“Mr Foster is plainly a man with a certain notoriety, but the record ought to be looked at for what it is,” Mr Young said.

“It’s extensive and in certain respects it’s quite shameful, (but) it shouldn’t be suggested Mr Foster is more than what he actually is.”

It is not the first time Mr Foster, 54, has found himself in strife regarding allegedly shonky investment schemes.

In 2005, the part-time Byron Bay and Gold Coast resident was banned from any involvement in the weight loss industry after he was linked to the weight loss scam SensaSlim.

During the 1980s he persuaded topless model and pop singer Samantha Fox and the Duchess of York, Sarah Ferguson, to promote his product Bai Lin tea, which falsely claimed to promote weight loss and wellbeing.

According to the statement of facts, the victim in the most recent allegations got in contact with “Mark Hughes” after reading an advertisement in the newspaper in 2013.

The alleged victim initially deposited $150,000 before travelling to STC offices in Sydney for a meeting with Hughes.

However when the man got there, he was greeted with Mr Hughes on a Skype video call. The facts state the same situation unfolded when the man travelled to the London STC office.

Foster allegedly convinced the man to deposit $1.3 million into a Hong Kong account to purchase the licence in South Africa.

Court documents outline how the scheme began to unravel when the director of STC sent the investor a message referring to a man called Peter Foster.

An internet search revealed a video of Foster, and the victim matched the image with the man he knew as Mark Hughes.

Altogether, the man had deposited more than $1.5 million into STC and the Hong Kong accounts, police allege.

Since the scheme started, police allege $32 million has been deposited into STC’s Sydney-based Westpac account with a majority sent offshore.

Mr Foster’s case was adjourned to April.

With AAP

Chugg Entertainment warns fans not to buy Elton John tickets from ‘reseller’ websites

Scam warning over Elton and Midnight Oil tickets Elton John plays a one of NSW show at WIN Stadium, Sunday September 24. Picture: Supplied

Midnight Oil announce a new tour after 15 years. They play a one off show in Wollongong on Monday November 13. Picture: Nick Moir

Unauthorised website Viagogo selling tickets to the SOLD OUT Midnight Oil show in Wollongong, on Thursday (March 9).

Unauthorised website Viagogo selling tickets to Elton John’s show in Wollongong, on Thursday (March 9).

Unauthorised website Viagogo selling tickets to Elton John’s show in Wollongong, on Thursday (March 9).

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12345 – Promoters of Elton John’s Wollongong concert are warning fans not to be duped by ticket resellers as digital scalping is on the rise.

Elton John presale tickets went on sale Thursday via authorised websites Moshtix and Ticketmaster, however, websites like the Swiss-based Viagogo, Stub Huband the Australian owned Ticketmaster Resale were also selling tickets.

These sitesclaim to offer fans a way of disposing of unwanted tickets to music and sporting events, though are also used by scalpers.

“It’s sucking the life out of the industry,” saidChugg Entertainment spokesmanMatthew Lazarus-Hall.

He said fans should also be wary of scalpers on Gumtree and Ebay, but reseller websites were taking advantage of grey areasin Australian legislation andoften at the expense of peoples wallets.

Mr Lazarus-Hall said sometimesthe sameseats could be soldmultiple times and at highly inflated prices.

On Thursday Viagogo also claimedto have tickets to Midnight Oil’s Wollongong show on November 13 (at two and three times the price), even though promoters said it sold out within an hour of going on sale.

Unauthorised website Viagogo selling tickets to the SOLD OUT Midnight Oil show in Wollongong, on Thursday (March 9).

It comes as Choice Magazine lobby’s the consumer watchdog to take action.They’ve lodgeda complaint to the AustralianCompetition and Consumer Commission against Viagogo and Ticketmaster Resale.

The ABC reports Frontier Touring, which is promoting Midnight Oil’s reunion tour, is also preparing a submission to the ACCC focusing on what it called “misleading sales tactics and language” used by some resale sites.

A spokeswoman for NSW Fair Trading said the majority of complaints in 2016 about ticket scalping and reselling services were about heavily marked up ticket prices, booking fees not being disclosed and tickets being sold which did not exist at the time of sale or had been cancelled by the issuer.

“Ticket reselling is often raised at the time of high profile and popular events with some consumer frustration in tickets selling very fast through ticketing companies but then appearing through the secondary market,” the spokeswoman said.

“While the Australian Consumer Law can address instances of misleading conduct, it does not prohibit the practice of reselling itself.”

Illawarra Mercury