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Women in US can now collect their own sample for cervical cancer screening

Self-collection has been shown to improve cervical cancer screening access, especially in underserved populations



The US medtech company BD has announced the FDA approval for the use of self-collected vaginal specimens for HPV testing when cervical specimens can’t otherwise be obtained.

The approval is hoped to allow women to self-collect vaginal specimens for HPV testing in a healthcare settings, which could include non-traditional locations, such as a retail pharmacy or mobile clinic.

HPV is the cause of virtually all cervical cancer, and HPV testing is the preferred screening method by the American Cancer Society in the United States.

The BD Onclarity HPV Assay is FDA-approved for HPV primary testing without the need for a traditional smear test performed with a speculum.

This new approval of self-collected samples has the potential to open the door to a less invasive testing option and improve access to testing for individuals who face barriers to cervical cancer screening.

“Many patients are uncomfortable with the intimate nature of a pelvic exam,” said Dr Jeff Andrews, board-certified gynaecologist and vice president of global medical affairs for diagnostic solutions at BD.

“Also, many people live in areas without a local doctor or clinician trained to obtain a sample with a speculum. The option to self-collect in a clinical setting can help women overcome some of these barriers.”

Cervical cancer is preventable, and screening plays a crucial role in early detection and prevention.

According to the American Cancer Society, approximately 50 per cent of cervical cancer diagnoses are in never-screened people, and 10 per cent of diagnoses occurs in under-screened individuals.

In addition, the National Cancer Institute estimates that 25 per cent of women in the US do not receive regular cervical cancer screening.

Various factors contribute to inadequate screening, including physical and geographic inaccessibility, financial insecurity, lack of awareness about the importance of screening, social or religious preferences, physical disability, medical conditions, or history of sexual, physical or psychological abuse that may make a pelvic examination for sample collection traumatising.

Self-collection has been shown to improve cervical cancer screening access, especially in underserved populations.

In the US, black, Hispanic and American Indian women have higher rates of cervical cancer than women of other racial groups, with black women having the highest rate of death.

With vaginal self-collection as an option for cervical cancer screening, women could become more inclined to participate in such care, allowing healthcare providers an alternative option to identify a high-risk HPV infection in more convenient care settings.

Dr Shieva Ghofrany, a practicing OB/GYN and fellow of the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, said: “Self-collection provides greater access to testing.

“BD Onclarity allows healthcare providers to determine the specific HPV strains present in the samples and more precisely identify and treat individuals at high-risk and avoid unnecessary treatments for women at low risk.”

The National Cancer Institute (NCI) has been working with BD in a public-private partnership to address disparities in cervical cancer screening.

As part of this initiative, BD will be a participant in the Self-collection of HPV testing to Improve Cervical Cancer Prevention (SHIP) trial, which will begin enrolling this summer, to evaluate accuracy of self-collection for HPV testing both in healthcare and other settings, including at home.


‘Groundbreaking’ endometriosis study identifies patient priorities



A “groundbreaking” study into endometriosis has identified three areas for future research that can help improve the outcomes for women with the condition.

The study, commissioned by Endometriosis New Zealand, attracted 1,262 participants, including 1,024 people with confirmed endometriosis, making it the largest ever study involving endometriosis patients and supporters in New Zealand.

Study participants identified the management and treatment of endometriosis, the need for a better understanding of its cause and improvements to diagnostic capability as the three main priorities for further research.

While these findings provide a clear pathway for future work, Endometriosis New Zealand chief executive, Tanya Cooke, said endometriosis research had historically been underfunded.

“With an estimated 120,000 New Zealanders living with endometriosis, much more needs to be invested into finding solutions,” Cooke explained.

“The reality is the outcomes for many endometriosis patients are pretty poor, with diagnosis often taking many years and treatment patchy across the country.”

Estimates based on Australian data suggest that endometriosis is likely to be costing New Zealand somewhere in the range of $1.3-1.5bn annually through increased healthcare costs and lost workforce productivity.

Cooke said: “The good news is that our findings align closely with those in Australia and provide three clear priorities for future research – improved treatment options, causation and better diagnostic capability.

“What New Zealand now requires is proper funding for a future research programme that can investigate these priorities more closely and improve the outcomes for individuals living with endometriosis.”

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Virtual care platform secures US$46m to address US maternal health crisis

Pomelo Care will use the funding to scale its care model and improve maternal and infant outcomes



Marta Bralic Kerns, founder and CEO of Pomelo Care

The US virtual maternity care platform Pomelo Care has secured US$46m in funding to address the US maternal health crisis.

One in 10 babies born in the US today start their life in a neonatal intensive care unit.

Healthcare access continues to worsen, with one in eight births occurring in US counties with limited-to-no access to maternal care. Due to significant gaps in postpartum care, about half of pregnancy-related deaths in the US occur after hospital discharge.

The evidence exists for how to identify people at highest risk for complications and which interventions are most effective, but existing data gaps and provider capacity challenges make it difficult to apply these interventions at scale.

Pomelo has developed a care model that aims to address these challenges by analysing claims and health record data to identify individual risk factors and providing virtual pregnancy, postpartum, and infant care to patients to reduce those risks.

“We’ve long known what works to reduce maternal and infant complications,” said Marta Bralic Kerns, founder and CEO of Pomelo Care.

“The questions have always been: can you identify the patients who are at highest risk, can you deeply engage them in care to drive uptake of the prevention strategies we know work, and can you do it in the highest risk populations with the most limited access to care?”

“This data demonstrates that we absolutely can. And with this additional funding, we’ll have the opportunity to scale our care model to more pregnant people across the country.”

The funding, led by existing investors First Round Capital and Andreessen Horowitz (a16z) Bio + Health, is hoped to help Pomelo accelerate its partnerships with payors across the US and increase access to “evidence-based” care.

Josh Kopelman, partner at First Round Capital and Pomelo board member, said: “It’s rare to come across an opportunity where the incentives between patient, provider and payor are all aligned.

“Marta and the Pomelo team have found an incredible opportunity to dramatically improve outcomes for the highest risk populations, while helping payors reduce their avoidable costs.”

Vineeta Agarwala, general partner at a16z Bio + Health and Pomelo board member, added: “Pomelo is one among a small set of health tech companies that have earned true scale.

“This scale is evident in our partnerships with major Medicaid and commercial plans covering over three million lives, which create the opportunity to collaborate with OB providers, labour and delivery wards, and NICUs nationwide, while serving hundreds of thousands of expecting mothers and newborns with high quality, technology-enabled care.”

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One in three UK fertility patients seek treatment abroad due to high costs

Expensive fertility treatments prompt UK patients to seek help abroad



One in three fertility patients in the UK seek treatment abroad due to high costs, a new survey has shown.

Fertility Family has gathered insights from 429 UK participants who have experienced difficulties with infertility.

The Infertility Awareness Report found that the high cost of fertility treatment in the UK has driven over one in four people to spend over £10,000 on both treatments and investigative procedures.

The research showed around 35 per cent of people struggling with infertility have considered seeking fertility treatment abroad due to the prospect of lower costs.

Of those seeking fertility treatment in a foreign country, however, only 14 per cent believed that clinics abroad have a higher success rate.

Of those actively trying to conceive almost one in five have used their life savings in the pursuit of having a child, whilst 25 per cent have paid for their fertility treatments using a credit card.

Dr Gill Lockwood, consultant at Fertility Family, said: “While we tend to cast our gaze on women when it comes to infertility, case studies have shown that infertility can impact both women and men in similar ways. However, women have been observed to seek help more than men.

“Although the psychological struggles of infertility can be overwhelming, many patients ultimately reach some type of resolution. Some of the alternatives include becoming parents to a relative’s children, adopting children, or deciding to adopt a child-free lifestyle.

“Needless to say, this resolution is usually psychologically demanding, and patients may feel forever impacted by the experience of infertility.”

A combination of fertility struggles and accessible healthcare have impacted people across the UK significantly, with one in two admitting to feeling “ashamed” due to their difficulties trying to conceive.

A further 31 per cent reported feeling that other people think “less” of them due to their fertility struggles, showcasing the need for better mental health support.

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