TASCS Australia attends the 2016 HAA Conference
November 18, 2016
This year, the HAA Annual Scientific Conference took place at the Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre and was convened from Sunday 14th November till Wednesday 16th November. The conference is a prominent event for those involved in the area of haematology, bringing together prominent haematologists, medical researchers, international guests, as well as nursing and support staff from haematology units from around Australia and New Zealand. The event is cooperatively organised annually, by the Haematology Society of Australia and New Zealand(HSANZ), the Australian & New Zealand Society of Blood Transfusion (ANZSBT) and the Australasian Society of Thrombosis and Haemostasis (ASTH). The first letter of each organisation’s title constitutes the title of the Conference, thus the HAA Conference.
This particular year, the Thalassaemia and Sickle Cell Society of Australia sent a delegation to attend the HAA Annual Conference, and to set up and manage an exhibition stand. The exhibition stand was well received by many of the conference attendees, who wanted to learn about the Society’s ongoing work, to obtain information resources, and to establish cooperative relations. In these exchanges, it became quite clear that there is a greater need within Australia and New Zealand for information, training, finance and support to haematological units and practitioners, for the treatment of people affected by haemoglobinopathies such as thalassaemia or sickle cell anaemia. It also became apparent, that haemoglobinopathies are far more prevalent within the community than previously thought, as requests were made by medical practitioners from regional areas from around Australia.
This is a particularly important point that the Society has been highlighting for years to governmental authorities, as the provision or financing for one key treatment facility within an entire state is not sufficient to meet the needs of people affected by haemoglobinopathies, who may live in differing and distant parts of one city from treatment facilities or in regional areas. The lack of knowledge, awareness or understanding within the Australian populace or amongst the Australian medical fraternity, combined with the influx of new migrants into Australia, certainly exacerbates the issue.
A point which was duly noted in one of the keynote presenters, Dr Gemma Crighton of the Haemoglobinopathy Registry, who highlighted that within Australia, we neither have current reliable data or information regarding the prevalence of haemoglobinopathies such as thalassaemia or sickle cell anaemia within the Australian populace, either for affected cases or carrier status. Nor do we know much regarding the mutations that may take place within the offspring of people who are carriers of differing types of haemoglobinopathies, or for that matter, the prevalence amongst indigenous Australians.
Other keynote presenters who spoke about matters that relate to concerns for haemoglobinopathies included:
Steven Spitalnik, Director of Clinical Laboratories of Columbia University Medical Center (USA), who spoke about “Pathophysiology of Haemolytic Transfusion Reactions” and “Stored Red Blood Cell (RBC) transfusions: Iron, inflammation, immunity, infection”.
Naomi Luban, who is the Chief of Transfusion Medicine at the Children’s National Medical Center (USA), spoke about Paediatric Transfusion Reactions and alloimmunisation.
Walter H. “Sunny” Dzik, who is the co-director of Blood Transfusion Service at Massachusetts General Hospital, spoke at lengths about whether the millions of Red Blood Cell transfusions that take place each year, really do deliver oxygen to recipients.
Shaza Abo, spoke about Hospital and home-based exercise programs that follow Allogeneic Haematopoietic Stem Cell transplantations
Alisa Higgins presented a pilot study that seeks to discern the frequency, costs and outcomes of red blood cell transfusion in hospitalised patients.
Vip Viprakasit, who is a prominent expert in thalassaemia, and is professor at Paediatrics in Siriraj Hospital and Mahidol University in Thailand, spoke about novel therapies and approaches in the treatment of thalassaemia.
Russell Ware who is the Director of Haematology at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital spoke about global strategies for dealing with sickle cell anaemia.
Stephen Jane spoke about novel approaches to dealing with haemoglobinopathies
Peter Flanagan the National Medical Director, New Zealand Blood Service presented an update on emerging infection threats to the safety of the blood supply.
Jim Buttery spoke about what is the role for immunoglobulin products in the era of better vaccinations and new drugs?
Phoebe Joy Ho spoke about the Prevalence of cardiac and hepatic siderosis in Australian patients with transfusion-dependent anaemias or non-transfusion-dependent thalassaemia, as assessed by MRI (the TIMES Study)
Andrew Perkins (QLD) presented on KLF1 mutations and thalassaemia
Also present was Monash Therapy Unit’s very own Dr Zane Kaplan who chaired some of the symposiums and spoke briefly regarding haemoglobinopathies, as well as Erica Wood of the Haemoglobinopathy Registry.
All in all, it was an informative and useful conference as we were able to hear about recent medical developments in haematology and the treatment of haematological illnesses. But more importantly, the conference afforded the Society an opportunity to garner information from medical professionals as to prevalence and increasing needs of medical centres seeking to treat and serve people affected by various haemoglobinopathies within Australia and New Zealand.
What was encouraging for TASCS Australia’s delegates, was the number of haematologists who wish to help improve the situation for sufferers of haemoglobinopathies, and to seek better training and resources to serve the needs of patients, and to establish links with the Society to further this cause. Without doubt there is much work that needs to be done to follow up this opportunity and the formation of new relationships. At present the Society is seeking to put together a coalition of supporters with the hope to lobby government authorities to help assist the growing needs and prevalence of haemoglobinopathies within Australia. We only wish this effort would proceed quicker than what it is, but bringing together people for a common cause is not an easy task, and we will need all the support we can get.