Blood cancers

Leukaemia chromosome detection technique wins top science prize

A world-first technique that can better detect abnormal chromosomes inside leukaemia cells has won one of the coveted science Eureka Prizes for 2018.

Researchers from the University of Western Australia have been awarded the ANSTO Eureka Prize for Innovative Use of Technology for their automated Immuno-flow FISH technique, which uses imaging flow cytometry to detect as few as one abnormal cell in 10,000 normal cells.

The novel method is a significant improvement on existing detection methods and means a patient with leukaemia can be closely monitored at any stage of their disease to assess their response to treatment and provides an early indicator of recurrence.

Professor Wendy Erber, Dr Kathy Fuller and Henry Hui from the UWA Medical School say the invention will provide substantial improvements in cancer diagnostics and lead to more individualised treatments and better patient care.

Currently, the gold standard for detecting cytogenetic abnormalities is interphase fluorescence in situ hybridisation (FISH) performed on cell smears or tissue sections on glass slides. However this manual method based on microscopy allows only 200 cells to be assessed and the limit of sensitivity is 3% positive cells.

Using automated high throughput imaging flow cytometry the UWA team were able to assess  chromosome 12 by FISH in thousands of CLL cells.

“It adds a new dimension to how leukaemia can be assessed and treatment decisions made,” Professor Erber said.

“It is a powerful new method which has potential to be applied at diagnosis for disease stratification, and following treatment to assess residual disease. These applications will assist clinicians in optimising therapeutic decision making and thereby improve patient outcomes,” the researchers said.

Professor Erber said the UWA  team are now expanding the test so that it can be applied to other types of leukaemia and cancers.

“The method we have invented offers significant potential impact for patients with leukaemia as well as other cancers. The invention promises a new era for diagnostic accuracy, personalised treatment and overall health outcomes for patients with cancers.”

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