Medical researchers from The University of Western Australia have been awarded a Foundation for Australia-Japan Studies (FAJS) grant awarded under the Rio Tinto Australia-Japan Collaborative Program to evaluate a new diagnostic tool for more precise targeting of blood and bone marrow cancers.
Professor Wendy Erber and Associate Professor Kathryn Fuller from the Faculty of Health and Medical and Sciences, together with Japan’s Sysmex Corporation, were awarded $140,000 for their project: Australia-Japan Collaboration to Improve the Identification of Blood Cancers with Immuno-flowFISH.
Professor Erber and Associate Professor Fuller were part of the research team which won the ANSTO 2018 Eureka Prize for Innovative Use of Technology for developing an automated method for rapid leukaemia detection.
The method they have developed, known as Immuno-flowFISH, enables the chromosomes and the whole leukaemia cell to be seen using a microscope built into the instrument used for this test.
More than 20,000 cells can be studied in one test, a vast improvement on current methods which only assess a few hundred cells and are much slower.
The name was derived to acknowledge that three tests have been incorporated into one: ‘immuno’ recognises that immunology testing is used to identify the leukaemia cells, ‘flow’ because the machine is an ‘imaging flow cytometer’, and ‘FISH’ is the name of the test that identified the chromosomes inside the cells.
The team has developed and applied the immuno-flowFISH method to study chronic lymphocytic leukaemia, the most common type of leukaemia in Australia and which affects three per cent of people over 60 years of age.
The fast, accurate and sensitive automated method can detect just one leukaemia cell in 10,000 normal cells, a major advance that will lead to personalised treatments and better patient care.
This grant will allow the team to apply immuno-flowFISH to the study of multiple myeloma, a cancer of the bone marrow that also involves the blood.
Changes in the chromosomes of the cancer cells give information about the likely response to treatment and outcome.
This new UWA invention will lead to better and personalised approaches to managing multiple myeloma and improving patient outcomes.
The researchers will collaborate with Sysmex Corp Japan which is developing software to more accurately enumerate small changes in the chromosome signals in this immuno-flowFISH test.