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Taking the travel out of treatment

Dr Briony Shaw
Dr Briony Shaw

Australian first pilot study will see patients receive blood transfusions at home

The burden of blood cancer is increasing due to an ageing population and, as new and improved treatments become available, many older and more frail patients are being offered clinical trials and PBS-listed treatments for the first time.

But assessing their levels of fitness and suitability for treatment and considering the whole patient is important and ensuring the best possible quality of life in these patients is a priority.

Now many medical interventions, including immunoglobulin, chemotherapy, and antibiotics, which previously required a hospital admission, can be given at home. This can help people feel more comfortable, while reducing the burden on caregivers and overall costs to the healthcare system.

Blood transfusions of red blood cells and platelets are a mainstay of supportive care for people with blood cancer and new research will focus on providing those transfusions and other types of care in the home.

The study led by Dr Briony Shaw involves designing and conducting Australia’s first pilot clinical study where patients are transfused at home and monitored during and after receiving their transfusion.

Innovative and clinically validated wearable devices are now being used to monitor patients at home, allowing them to be discharged from hospital earlier. These will be further developed as part of this research to enable heart rate, blood pressure, oxygen saturation, temperature, and blood counts to be checked, to make sure patients stay safe and clinically stable while at home, and to assess for early signs of deterioration or a change in their clinical state.

Dr Shaw said: “My aim is to improve the quality of life of patients with haematological malignancies receiving treatment for their disorder and to keep patients at home as much as possible.”

The PhD scholarship, called New approaches to home-based management of haematology patients, is funded by the Leukaemia Foundation and the Haematology Society of Australia and New Zealand (HSANZ).

About Briony Shaw

After school, and wanting to combine science with caring for people, Briony studied medicine at Monash University (Melbourne).

She completed her Bachelor of Medicine/Bachelor of Surgery with Honours and trained as a clinical and laboratory haematology registrar at Monash Health, Alfred Health, and Peninsula Health.

She is currently a research fellow in supportive and palliative care at Monash Health and in 2023 begins her PhD studies at both the Monash University Transfusion Research Unit and Monash Health.

Her career aim is to be a clinical and laboratory haematologist who focuses on elderly oncology, elderly patients with acute leukaemia, and supportive care haematology.

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