Melbourne researchers find new breast cancer gene

Melbourne researchers have isolated a gene that plays a complex role in breast cancer.
Nanjing Night Net

The PIPP gene ordinarily works to suppress tumours, but when breast cancer forms it causes the cancer to spread to the other parts of the body.

The Monash University researchers found that when the gene was removed from mice prone to breast cancer, the tumour itself grew bigger but cancer cells did not spread.

Lead researcher Christina Mitchell, the dean of medicine at Monash, said the gene was a valuable discovery and that the aim was to eventually screen for it in humans.

“We have very good treatments for the primary tumour, but the biggest killer in breast cancer is that when it spreads beyond the primary tumour it can become a real challenge in terms of treatment,” Professor Mitchell said.

“If you can inhibit this gene, potentially, you might be able to decrease the spread of the cancers to the bones or the liver.”

The research, which took eight years to isolate the gene’s function, was published on Tuesday in US medical journal Cancer Cell.

The paper’s lead author, Lisa Ooms​, said when the PIPP gene was active it worked in concert with another gene to cause the cancer to spread.

She said separate clinical trials were under way to analyse the cancer spread pathway that the gene was involved in, which the team was watching closely.

Professor Mitchell said “loss of the PIPP gene was connected with triple negative breast cancer subtype”.

She said that treatment could be helped if PIPP’s role was picked up early and that identifying the gene’s involvement might be important for predicting better or worse outcomes in cancer.

The team hopes to do more research on the gene, and look more closely at what stems the cancer spread pathway that PIPP regulates.

However, Professor Mitchell warned that the gene’s involvement in humans had not yet been observed and more work would need to be done on its interactions.

She said there had been large advances in breast cancer research in the eight years it had taken them to conduct their study of the PIPP gene, and that scientists were now looking more at the interaction of multiple genes in breast cancer than doing analysis of individual genes in isolation.

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Elementus wins environmental exemption for Williamsdale solar farm

The Monaro Highway site at Williamsdale set to become home to a solar farm. Photo: Graham TidyElementus Energy has been granted an exemption from having to prepare an environmental impact statement for its planned solar farm at Williamsdale, despite concerns from residents about native tree clearing.
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Elementus plans a 10 megawatt array on 34 hectares of land beside the Monaro Highway.

The company has been dogged by controversy over its planned solar farm, which was originally to be sited adjacent to Uriarra village but was moved after vehement opposition from Uriarra residents.

Earlier this year, the ACT government offered it a site at Williamsdale, on land owned by Actew Water (now Icon), a move welcomed by Uriarra residents.

Actew bought the block in 2009 and in 2013 ActewAGL put it forward as the site for a 20 megawatt solar farm in the government solar auction. It missed out on a contract.

In March this year, the government’s Land Development Agency bought the land for $3.1 million to smooth the way for the solar farm and will lease part of it to Elementus.

The solar array means the removal of about 116 trees, mainly yellow box, plus half a hectare of native vegetation.

Elementus applied for an exemption from having to prepare an environmental impact statement on the basis that an exemption had already been given to Actew for its planned solar farm on the site.

Elementus argued that the native vegetation had already been significantly degraded through exotic pasture and a history of grazing. It also pointed to numerous weeds on the site and the lack of dead trees and fallen limbs for native habitats.

The Conservator of Flora and Fauna said many of the trees to be removed were “hollow bearing” and so likely to support animals. All trees along Angle Crossing Road should be retained and native tree loss should be minimised, the conservator said. The removal of any mature trees outside of the array must be justified.

The planning and land authority said its assessment “confirmed that the proposal will result in impacts on some species and ecological communities but these impacts are unlikely to be significant” and “further investigation and environmental assessment of the potential impacts of the proposal on species and ecological communities is not recommended for this project”.

It also pointed to glare and views from the Monaro Highway but said Elementus would move the array at least 200 metres away from the highway, would use non-reflective solar panels and would plant natives as screening.

It noted the Murrumbidgee River nearby, but said measures had been proposed to protect stormwater run-off during and after construction and the government’s water policy team did not expect significant impacts on water quality.

The site is in a bushfire-prone area and the array would be “exposed to a high level of risk due to the site being located on the eastern rim of the Murrumbidgee River valley and also being exposed to the influences of strong, drying northwest to southwest winds that will, due to the steep slopes to the west, increase the rate of spread of a fire upslope towards the east”, the planning authority said.

It recommended measures including a Colourbond fence on the northern boundary, water tanks and grazing to keep grass low.

In his decision to grant an exemption from an environmental impact assessment, Planning Minister Mick Gentleman said the impact of the proposal had been sufficiently addressed, and the solar farm was now free to lodge a planning application for the array.

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ACT closes off its generous rooftop solar scheme, forcing homeowners to join up or miss out

Solar panels on an Ainslie rooftop: The ACT government has moved to close off new sign-ups the premium scheme. Photo: Rohan ThomsonThe ACT government has closed off its premium rooftop solar scheme, forcing people who are yet to hook up to the grid to do so by the end of next year or miss out.
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The generous scheme pays people as much as 50 cents a kilowatt hour for the energy they feed into the grid from the solar panels on their roofs, and such was the clamour to join when it began in early 2009 that the scheme was closed to new customers in 2011 and already looking to overrun its 30 megawatts capacity.

But if people had a contract signed for a rooftop installation when it closed they are still entitled to the premium feed-in tariff for 20 years from the date they hook up to the grid. More than 5000 have connected since the scheme closed.

In all, more than 10,000 households are signed up to the premium tariff. In the past year, they were paid $16 million for the electricity they produced, or an average of about $1600 each.

Environment Minister Simon Corbell has now set a deadline for connecting rooftop installations under the scheme of December 2016.

He has also closed a loophole in rooftop solar that would allow people to store power and sell it back at the premium rate. The loophole has not been exploited, according to Mr Corbell’s spokesman, but storage technology is becoming more widespread.

The move “explicitly prohibits export of electricity that has been sourced from a non-renewable source such as the electricity grid, to claim [feed-in tariff] entitlements,” he said.

“While this is not an issue currently, this amendment is targeted at preventing exploitation of [feed-in tariff] entitlements for non-renewable electricity in the future. Rapid advances in storage technologies are leading to lower costs of batteries which is likely to result in greater uptake by households and businesses.”

Mr Corbell also wound back reporting requirements so instead of a monthly report on the scheme, he is obliged to report once a year.

The changes were introduced in May and passed with little fanfare during the first week of June, when attention was focused on the budget.

ActewAGL said last year the average Canberra installation was about 2.5kW, with a 3kW installation covering the energy needs for a typical house. Larger than that and householders are earning money on the deal.

It now pays just 7.5 cents a kilowatt hour for rooftop solar for people not in the premium scheme.

Mr Corbell’s spokesman said there were only a small number of customers yet to be connected to the premium scheme – about 404 kilowatts in small-scale solar and 7 megawatts in medium-scale capacity, which would bring the total capacity to about 33 megawatts.

Since the scheme was closed, households had added about 18.8 megawatts of rooftop solar without the support of the premium tariff, bringing the total in small-scale solar to 44.8 megawatts, including households on the premium tariff and those who were not.

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A helpdesk that’s unable to help

“In many cases I felt I could not provide real solutions to callers’ problems.”’They’re in denial’; MyGov users vent angerMyGov lockout143 years on hold to Centrelink
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Over the past few weeks I have been employed casually with the Department of Human Services, answering calls for the Online Self-Services and myGov helpdesk. Casuals are being employed in call centres to provide assistance and promote these online services. After two weeks of training and one week taking calls I resigned because I felt I could not provide genuine service. In many cases I also felt I could not provide real solutions to callers’ problems.

Another DHS worker wrote on this site in May that many vulnerable people were having difficulties getting through to services because phone lines are jammed with calls about simple issues. I agree that a good online service could solve some of these difficulties. But at the moment sites like myGov are far too cumbersome. Some people are also uncomfortable using computers or live in areas of slow internet speeds. There seems to be little consideration now for people not wanting to use online services.

Many of the issues heard by the helpdesk are in regards to the myGov website. Unfortunately most issues were resolved by suggesting callers recreate their myGov accounts. Sometimes there was no other option. In other cases it was because no other option could be thought of. There was also the option of suggesting the caller could be having “intermittent” issues with their internet or phone network. Though not consciously suggested or meant, this had the appearance of trying to get the caller off the line.

If a caller wanted a better solution there is an “escalation system”. First a staff member can contact a local technical support officer. If this fails an online form can be sent to a national team. This is as far as the issue can be taken now and the caller must wait to be contacted. For both these support options a staff member has to note the number of resources they have used, including a template of common issues. This is why you will be asked if you have turned your computer off and back on!

The most common issues were people being unable to access their accounts or being locked out. We were told that people had three attempts at their username and password before being locked out for 12 hours. They would then have another two attempts before they were locked out of that account forever. Strangely the system seems to be set up in anticipation of these issues because we are all free to create, lock ourselves out and create a new account as many times as necessary.

A frequent problem is that callers insist they have used their correct username, password and secret questions. One person had even kept their original username, password and secret questions in a Word document. But they were still unable to get into their account.

A further complication for those locked out of their accounts is that the email address used is linked to that account. We could offer two solutions: an “email release”, where a request was sent off so the person could use the email address again. Or we could suggest they use a separate email or create a new email account. Understandably this caused a lot of annoyance. Many couples also found they required separate email addresses despite years of using one email address.

Even when people have access to their myGov account problems keep occurring. For example, a person could be trying to link a new service such as the Tax Office to their account, when they already have Medicare linked. They are unable to create the link because their details do not match. The issue seems to be that different government agencies have different information. So when a person attempts to link multiple records to their myGov account, the system thinks it is looking at the records of two different people.

As you may be aware, a number of government agencies are using the myGov website and more will in the future. However, the 13 23 07 number and the staff working on it now are employed by and use the Centrelink systems. But other agencies like Medicare and the ATO send their calls about technical issues to this number. If the issue is basic it can possibly be solved. However, staff cannot access other agencies’ systems and therefore cannot see if there is an issue there. For example, some callers have been unable to access Centrelink on their myGov accounts. This can be because their Centrelink record suggests that it does not have enough proof of identity, which will have to be presented at a physical office. If there is a similar issue for a customer of another agency, helpdesk staff cannot see this.

There are other online issues, such as SMS verification codes, missing online letters and people not being able to submit their claims or income reporting. However, I would like to mention a few of the technical issues from a staff perspective.

Being employed by Centrelink means not being able to view information about non-Centrelink customers. Staff are also unable to access myGov accounts remotely and reset passwords or unlock accounts. This is because the customer’s account is not part of a government record, therefore to enter would be a breach of security and privacy.

Furthermore, a person might call the helpdesk number with an uncommon issue, or one that cannot be addressed by the usual solutions. Therefore staff could search the Centrelink intranet, a main Centrelink wiki site or various wikis created by staff, as well as guides accessible to the public on humanservices.gov419论坛. While it is helpful that there is a huge amount of information, like the myGov site these resources are temperamental. Pages dedicated to the area of information required do not include what you are looking for. And using search functions, even with specific and correct page names, can bring up pages of irrelevant results.

Therefore, after only a few days on the phone I found myself feeling ill and depressed when awaiting the next phone call to arrive. I felt that I was unable to provide an adequate level of service – putting people on hold (and wasting their time and money) to search hopelessly and then usually have to inform them that they could start over or hope it was an internet issue. That is not good enough.

I worked with friendly and dedicated people, who I do not want to put down here. They are being failed, just as the customers are. I have admiration for those who I worked with, attempting to get through callers’ issues, and for those who called and were sometimes understandably upset.

Fast and easy online services are a good idea for those who want to use them. But instead of focusing on herding as many people on to an imperfect system, perhaps the focus can be on creating systems that are easy to use, that do not break down often and that can be understood by well-trained staff.

The author is a former DHS worker

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Lodge interior ready but no date for Tony Abbott move

Work on The Lodge is expected to cost more than $8.8 million. Photo: Graham TidyWork to refurbish the inside of the prime minister’s official Canberra residence is finished but Tony Abbott is yet to decide when he will move in to the historic home.
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Extensive renovations of The Lodge are more than a year overdue and will cost taxpayers at least $8.8 million, dwarfing the original estimated price of $3.19 million.

While Mr Abbott was last week launching a review of travel perks for parliamentarians in the wake of former Speaker Bronwyn Bishop’s resignation, the Finance Department quietly announced the inside of The Lodge was finished and the house was ready for its new tenants.

Work is continuing outside the house, including replacement of guardhouses used by the Australian Federal Police, new outside toilet facilities and a new shed for the property’s gardeners.

The project’s overall completion date has been pushed back again, this time to September. Previously the department said work would be finished in early 2015, later delaying completion until mid-year.

Commissioned under the former Labor government, the renovation has seen new wiring for the 40-room home, repainting and new carpets, restored heritage features, new bathrooms and dressing rooms, and a new “luggage lift” installed.

Asbestos has been removed from the 1927 home, while the entire slate roof has been replaced, heating and cooling system upgraded and new balcony balustrades added.

A spokesman for the Prime Minister’s office said there was no announcement of when Mr Abbott would move from the Australian Federal Police Academy in nearby Barton.

Mr Abbott has opted to stay in a $110-a-night room at the college, shunning a $3000-a-week home in nearby Forrest rented during the pre-election caretaker period.

Contractors finishing inside the house will allow heritage furniture, curtains and artworks owned by the Australiana Fund to be reinstated to the interior. Finance officials told Senate estimates hearings in May they hoped the house would be ready for tenants by the end of June or early July.

The government’s tender website shows “asbestos re-encapsulation” work completed by Parsons Brinckerhoff Australia cost taxpayers $19,241.20.

Project management work by Fyshwick-based Ross Petsas Luksza cost $44,550.00 and specialist advice from Ainsworth Heritage consultants cost $59,449.01.

Law firm Clayton Utz charged $67,550 for legal advice on the project and removals and storage costs for light fittings and window treatments by Oldfield Removals and Storage cost $22,557.16.

A new gutter safety system installed in early 2013 cost taxpayers $81,581.50, while replacement of the 1980s slate roof by Roofing Slate Worx cost $335,314.71.

The cost of head contractor Mantenna has been varied to $8.87 million.

Mr Abbott has previously said he would lean towards “orthodoxy” and live in the home. Designed by Melbourne architects Oakley and Parkes, prime minister Stanley Melbourne Bruce and his wife Ethel Bruce first moved into the colonial revival-style home in May 1927.

Originally known as the Prime Minister’s Cottage, the heritage-listed property was built by James Taylor, of Sydney, at a cost of £28,000. Cabinet required the interior decoration and furniture, designed by Ruth Lane Poole, used quality Australian materials and the “best British manufacturers”.

Prime ministers Ben Chifley and James Scullin famously derided The Lodge and lived elsewhere, while 15 former leaders, including Kevin Rudd and Julia Gillard, used the residence during their tenures.

Mr Abbott’s family already use his official Sydney residence, Kirribilli House.

The government has sought to avoid information about the refurbishment being made public, including blocking access to the media. One senior bureaucrat said Mr Abbott’s staff could be concerned about privacy or a poor reaction to the information being made public.

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