01.05.2019 change 02.05.2019
Karolina Duszczyk
Karolina Duszczyk

See through leukemia and its hidden subtypes

Photo: Private archive/Czesław Radzewicz Photo: Private archive/Czesław Radzewicz

Polish scientists propose an innovative method for the diagnosis of leukemia that will allow to prevent the recurrence of the disease. They received PLN 26 million from the TEAM-NET programme of the Foundation for Polish Science for the development of specialized diagnostic equipment and clinical implementation.

In the bone marrow of people with leukemia, there are several subtypes of leukemic cells with different sets of mutations. Standard diagnostic tools allow to detect only one dominant subtype, against which the treatment is implemented.

In general, this method is effective. But sometimes a relapse occurs due to the proliferation of other subtypes if cancer cells. This is because, at the time of the diagnosis of leukemia, they were present in a small amount and it was not possible to apply treatment directed against all leukemic cell subtypes present in the patient`s bone marrow.

According to the Foundation for Polish Science press release, a consortium of five scientific units, whose leader is the University of Warsaw, is working on the device for rapid, non-labelling imaging, identification and sorting of leukemia cell subtypes. Research work is financed by the foundation`s TEAM-NET programme.

"Our goal is to simplify and expedite the diagnosis of leukemia, as well as to increase its effectiveness, because thanks to our device, it will be possible to determine all subtypes of leukemia cells present in the patient`s marrow" - says the project leader, Prof. Czesław Radzewicz from the Faculty of Physics of the University of Warsaw.

The scientist explains that each of the subcategories of leukemic cells has a slightly different metabolism and produces different metabolites, and therefore has a different chemical composition. Due to the differences in the chemical composition, each of the subtypes slightly differently diffuses light in the so-called Raman`s spectrum. Polish researchers want to use this property.

"We will conduct multifaceted studies of Raman spectra of individual subtypes of leukemic cells and match them with the clinical features of the disease. Thus, we will develop a diagnostic algorithm for leukemia. A major technological challenge will be the creation of a unique device that will allow to immobilize cancer cells, image their Raman spectra, and then conduct microscopic analysis. In the longer perspective, we want this analysis to be carried out automatically. Combining the device with an algorithm will enable fast, objective, cheaper and more effective diagnostics of the disease and, consequently, more effective treatment" - says Prof. Czesław Radzewicz, quoted in the press release.

Six multidisciplinary teams will work on the new diagnostic method. Their members will include oncologists, chemists and physicists. These will be research groups from the Faculty of Physics of the University of Warsaw, the Institute of Physical Chemistry PAS in Warsaw, the Institute of Hematology and Transfusion Medicine in Warsaw, the Medical University of Lodz and the Faculty of Chemistry of the Jagiellonian University.

The researchers received funding from the Foundation for Polish Science in the amount exceeding PLN 26 million for four years for the creation and clinical implementation of the algorithm and the device. The project is one of the eleven projects awarded in the TEAM-NET programme. The TEAM-NET competition is implemented by the Foundation for Polish Science and co-financed by the Smart Growth Operational Programme (PO IR).

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