Saturday, June 23, 2007

FISH on a chip offers quicker, less costly cancer diagnosis

FISH on a chip offers quicker, less costly cancer diagnosis

For the first time an important diagnostic test for cancer has been miniaturized and automated onto a microfluidic chip by a team of University of Alberta researchers.

This new technology opens up the possibility of better, faster cancer treatment and greater accessibility to the test, thanks to quicker and more cost-efficient diagnosis.

A metaphase cell positive for the bcr/abl rearrangement using FISH. The chromosomes can be seen in blue. The chromosome that is labeled with green and red spots (up left) is the one where the wrong rearrangement is presentChris Backhouse, professor of electrical engineering and cancer scientist Dr. Linda Pilarski have developed a microfluidic chip the size of a microscope slide that can perform fluorescent in situ hybridization (FISH) on a handheld diagnostic device.
FISH is an important and complex test that detects mutations in chromosomes for a number of different types of cancer. The test involves attaching coloured dyes to chromosomes as a way to visualize and count them as well as to detect cancer-promoting breaks and rejoinings of chromosomes. These abnormalities provide clinically valuable information about disease outcomes and response to therapy. This new system will allow FISH to be rapidly performed for a fraction of the cost of current analysis methods. Compared to conventional methods for FISH, which can take days to perform, the on-chip FISH test can be done in less than a day with a ten-fold higher rate of processing and a reduction in costs from hundreds to tens of dollars.

This digital document is a journal article from Mut.Res.-Genetic Toxicology and Environmental Mutagenesis, published by Elsevier in 2007. The article is delivered in HTML format and is available in your Media Library immediately after purchase. You can view it with any web browser.

Although there has been a rapid rise in the application of fluorescent in situ hybridization (FISH) analysis of bone marrow tissue for the staging and prognosis determination of hematopoietic malignacies such as the chronic and acute leukemias, it's application as a surveillance tool for leukemogen exposed high risk occupational cohorts is understandably limited by the invasiveness of sample collection. While some small occupational studies have been performed using FISH in peripheral blood with promising results, some of the basic assumptions made in utilizing the FISH technique have not been fully explored.
Because of the complexity and expense of current technology, FISH is infrequently used in clinical situations. FISH on a chip will allow widespread use of the tests because of its higher speed and lower costs. The rapid detection of chromosomal mutations will significantly increase a physician's ability to tailor treatment strategies to target individual cancers.

"The ability to design 'personalized' therapies means that patients will be able to receive more effective treatments sooner and avoid exposure to side effects from treatments that will not help them," Pilarski said.

"This is representative of how miniaturization can make our health care more accessible while creating new economic opportunities here in Alberta," Backhouse added.

"FISH and chip is a prime example of knowledge transfer taking place everyday at the University of Alberta," said U of A President Indira Samarasekera. "This research epitomizes our duties of citizenship and our role as an economic engine. Combining engineering and oncology, Professors Backhouse and Pilarski, along with the most talented graduate students in the country, will make a great impact in the community, health care system, and the economy of Canada with their breakthrough research of automated chromosome analysis. In hospitals and clinics, I envision a plethora of remarkable outcomes for patients," she said.

"The work of Dr. Pilarski and her associates will have great impact, and quite quickly - on the diagnosis of patients with a broad spectrum of diseases," said Dr. Roderick McInnes, Scientific Director of the Canadian Institutes of Health Research Institute of Genetics. "Their FISH and chip technology should allow rapid and inexpensive diagnosis of important genetic changes that can underlie cancer and many developmental and neurological disorders. The type of product that these scientists have produced is a major example of the kind of innovation that Canada needs, innovation that grew out of the government's support of fundamental research in medicine and engineering."

The FISH and chips project was made possible by graduate student research, which plays a vital role in the day-to-day innovation that results in advances like this, Pilarski added.

The work is being published this month in IET Nanobiotechnology. It is also being presented at the 11th International Myeloma Workshop, a medical conference being held in Greece June 25-30.

Backhouse and Pilarski are part of the Alberta Cancer Diagnostic Consortium (ACDC), a multidisciplinary team at the University of Alberta and the Cross Cancer Institute that links engineering and medicine. The FISH and chip technology is one of several projects the group is developing and commercializing as automated, real-time tests for the detection and monitoring of cancer and other medical conditions. i-LOC Corp., a spin-off company supported by TEC Edmonton, the U of A's business incubator, was incorporated in November 2006 to commercialize the ACDC technology.
Funding for the research was provided by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council and Western Economic Diversification Canada.

The University of Alberta in Edmonton is one of the top 100 teaching and research universities in the world serving some 36,000 students with more than 11,000 faculty and staff. Founded almost a century ago, the university has an annual budget in excess of $1 billion and attracts more than $400 million in external research funding. The university offers close to 400 undergraduate and graduate programs in 18 faculties. -30-

For more information contact: Dr. Linda Pilarski, Professor of Oncology, Faculty of Medicine and Dentistry, University of Alberta, 780-432-8925.

Dr. Chris Backhouse, Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering, Faculty of Engineering, University of Alberta, 780-492-2920.

David Alton, Director of Business Development, Alberta Cancer Diagnostic Consortium, University of Alberta, 780-492-3202 780-492-4514.

Bev Betkowski, Public Affairs Associate, University of Alberta, 780-492-3808.

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