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April 2016 Specimen Spotlight: Myelodysplastic Syndrome & Acute Myeloid Leukemia

May 4, 2016

Blood Graphic

Welcome to the second installment of “Specimen Spotlight” – a monthly series in which we examine a particularly interesting specimen order completed during the previous four weeks. The demand for cancer biospecimens, particularly with specific inclusion and exclusion criteria, continues to soar. Cancer research is taking off stronger and faster than ever before, with ambitious new endeavors underway, such as Vice President Biden’s cancer moonshot initiative and Napster co-founder Sean Parker’s $250 million donation to build a cancer immunotherapy center. Our focus for this month continues to be cancer, as we highlight an order for matched sets of bone marrow and peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMCs) from patients with two forms of Leukemia – myelodysplastic syndrome (MDS) and acute myeloid leukemia (AML).

The prognosis for patients with MDS and AML doesn’t carry a lot of hope. With these conditions, patients’ bone marrow, where healthy new blood cells originate, becomes cancerous. The bone marrow is “injured,” and cannot sufficiently produce healthy cells. Further, 70-75% of patients with MDS, which is often a precursor to AML, eventually either succumb to the disease or progress to the latter condition. Currently, there is no cure for MDS and AML has a cure rate of less than 30%. There is a dire need to continue studying how these conditions work, and appropriate biospecimens are critical to this endeavor.

The matched sets we procured came from both MDS and AML patients, and were comprised of 130 million live cells in total. All cells were cryopreserved and transported with the utmost attention to temperature and handling. The pharmacogenetics company that placed the order will grow these live cells in a “tumor micro environment” that mimics the human body to study their typical in vivo behavior.

Traditional cancer treatments generally subscribe to the same tactic: attack cancer directly to reduce its harmful effects. However, many traditional therapies such as chemotherapy and bone marrow transplantation can sometimes do more harm than good, due to their aggressive nature. Further, since cancer is often a mutating, moving target, traditional treatments don’t always remain effective. Newer methods of treating cancer are looking at disrupting the cancer’s environment rather than the cancer itself.  This is what these researchers are doing with the samples we procured.

It’s a great honor to be part of the latest and greatest types of research. Because of our diverse array of supply partner sites, including hospitals, commercial labs, and biorepositories, we are confident that we will continue to procure high-demand, hard-to-find specimens for the most cutting edge research into diagnostics, treatments, and cures for cancer and beyond.