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New Test Could Make Multiple Myeloma Diagnosis as Easy as Drawing a Blood Sample

Laura Joszt
A new blood test could negate the need for bone biopsies to diagnose a variety of cancers, including multiple myeloma. The test uses a small, low-cost plastic chip that delivers the same diagnostic information of a biopsy through a simple blood draw.
One day, multiple myeloma may be diagnosed without subjecting patients to a painful bone biopsy, according to research on a new blood test published in Integrative Biology.

For the last 10 years, researchers at Kansas University (KU) have been developing a blood-based test for a variety of cancer diagnoses, including multiple myeloma. The blood test uses a small plastic chip that delivers the same diagnostic information through a simple blood draw.

“We’ll be able to eliminate the need for bone-marrow biopsies and allow the clinician to determine the best way to treat the disease using a blood draw,” Steven Soper, Foundation Distinguished Professor of Chemistry and Mechanical Engineering at KU and a member of The University of Kansas Cancer Center, said in a statement. “From this test, the clinician will be able to determine the stage of the disease, what type of drug will best treat the disease and monitor for signs of recurrence if the disease goes into remission.”

The new chip improves accuracy over previous chips developed to test for multiple myeloma, according to the researchers. Previous chips picked up regular blood cells instead of multiple myeloma cells. The chip test from KU identified circulating plasma cells in all patients with smouldering and symptomatic multiple myeloma, 78% of patients with monoclonal gammopathy of undetermined significance (a precursor to multiple myeloma), and none of the control patients.

The chip is also cheaper than previous versions and can be produced for a couple of dollars per chip, according to Soper, who led the research.

The goal, Soper said, is that screening for cancer will one day be routine and widespread so there can be a diagnosis long before symptoms present themselves. He added that integrating the test into care can be as easy as screening blood drawn during an annual physical for cancer.

The new test for multiple myeloma will be brought to market by BioFluidica. The technology is already being tested at Children’s Mercy Hospital in Kansas City on pediatric patients with acute leukemia, Soper explained. The test is being used to identify tumor cells in blood to see signs of disease recurrence. He added that the technology could have applications across many cancers.

“We’ve demonstrated the utility of this technology in a variety of cancer diseases,” Soper said. “Here, we’re homing in on multiple myeloma, but we’ve developed tests for two forms of leukemia and for pancreatic cancer, prostate cancer, ovarian cancer, colorectal cancer and breast cancer. With our technology, we’ll be able to see if patients are developing cancers before they have overt symptoms and help improve survival.”

Reference

Kamande JW, Lindell MAM, Witek MA, Voorhees PM, Soper SA. Isolation of circulating plasma cells from blood of patients diagnosed with clonal plasma cell disorders using cell selection microfluidics. Integr Bio (Camb). 2018;10(2):82-91.

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