CHICAGO – The groundbreaking scientific studies featured at the 2014 AACC Annual Meeting & Clinical Lab Expo will include research on a blood test for Alzheimer’s that uses biochip technology, a new test to diagnose colon cancer early, a more accurate method for determining multiple myeloma prognosis, a less stressful test for sleep apnea, and the development of a bank of biospecimens from pregnant women that could prove crucial for women’s health research.
Diagnostic work-ups for Alzheimer’s disease are time-consuming and costly, combining a neuropsychological review with an expensive brain scan or painful lumbar puncture. At the AACC annual meeting, Michael Veitinger, PhD, a research associate at the Institute of Physiology, Medical University of Vienna, Austria, will present his findings that biochip array technology has the potential to reliably diagnose Alzheimer’s disease using blood samples. In this study, Veitinger demonstrates that a biochip can detect multiple Alzheimer’s biomarkers—molecules whose presence indicates a condition or disease—in platelets, which share many biochemical similarities with neurons and have been shown to reflect changes in the brain. This research could lead to a cheap, simple Alzheimer’s blood test that can be performed right in a general practitioner’s office.
Given that the 5-year survival rate for stage I colon cancer patients is 74%, but only 28% for stage IIIC patients, the urgent need for tests that can catch colon cancer before it is too far along to be successfully treated is clear. At AACC’s annual meeting, Chuan-xin Wang, MD, PhD, director and professor of clinical laboratory medicine at China’s Shandong University, will present the results of a study to find new colorectal cancer biomarkers. Wang identified four microRNAs in the blood that were highly accurate in diagnosing colorectal cancer and were able to differentiate stage I and II patients from healthy controls. This discovery could enable doctors to diagnose patients when they are in the early stages of the disease and most likely to respond to treatment.
A major obstacle in treating multiple myeloma is that almost all patients who achieve remission eventually relapse. Most of these relapses are due to undetectable minimal residual disease (MRD), which is the persistence of small numbers of myeloma cells in a patient’s body following successful treatment. John Mills, PhD, a clinical chemistry fellow at the Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minnesota, will present his findings at AACC’s annual meeting on a highly sensitive mass spectrometry method known as miRAMM for detecting MRD in patients with multiple myeloma. Mills’ method uses blood samples, a more reliable test than traditional MRD tests that use bone marrow samples—because not all myeloma cells are confined to the bone marrow. This new method could increase survival rates of multiple myeloma patients by identifying those who need treatment for MRD.
Obstructive sleep apnea in children can lead to behavioral difficulties, learning disabilities, pulmonary/systemic hypertension, and decreased growth. However, the current gold standard for diagnosing sleep apnea—the overnight sleep study—is labor intensive, expensive, and limited by availability, in addition to being a potentially traumatic experience for children. At the AACC annual meeting, Trevor Pitcher, PhD, a clinical chemistry fellow at the University of Louisville, Louisville, Kentucky, will report the results of research showing that an immunoassay can effectively detect in urine the stress-coping peptide urocortin 3, which is significantly increased in children with sleep apnea. This urine test could serve as a psychologically easier alternative to a child spending a night in a strange bed in a sleep clinic.
A need exists in the research community for serum, urine, cord blood, placenta, and other tissue samples from pregnant women in order to study disorders that affect both the mother and fetus. 2011 AACC President Ann Gronowski, PhD, who is director of pathology and immunology at Washington University School of Medicine, St. Louis, will present the results of a successful effort to create a bank of biospecimens collected from women throughout all stages of pregnancy. Over the course of 6 years, this biobank has gathered nearly 45,000 samples. Thus far, 4,700 of these samples have been distributed to 11 scientists from five different university departments to aid their research, while the rest have been stored for future studies.
In addition to this breaking science, 2014’s plenary sessions will feature expert presentations on the importance of newborn screening, the biologic basis of obesity, and the latest advances that could lead to a cure for HIV.
“The cutting-edge science being presented at the 2014 AACC Annual Meeting & Clinical Lab Expo will help meet the critical needs of patients dealing with a wide range of diseases and conditions,” said AACC CEO Janet B. Kreizman. “These studies, as well as the headlining plenaries, showcase the impressive strides laboratory medicine makes in improving patients’ ability to get the treatment they need to lead healthier and longer lives.”
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