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Stephenson Cancer Center Research Points to More Effective Diagnostic Test for Leukemia Patients

Monday, June 11, 2018 - Campus News -

New research, led by Stephenson Cancer Center physician-scientist Jennifer Holter-Chakrabarty, MD, points to a potentially more effective diagnostic test for marrow recovery in patients leukemia undergoing bone marrow and stem cell transplants. This research was recently published in the journal, Lancet Haematology.

Holter-Chakrabarty is an associate professor of medicine in the section of hematology/oncology at the OU College of Medicine and a leader of the Bone Marrow Transplant team at the Stephenson Cancer Center.

Her research reveals that a new diagnostic PET imaging  test, known as 18F-fluorothymidine (18F-FLT) Radiolabeled Thymidine, can more effectively identify successful growth of newly transplanted cells in  leukemia patients who have undergone bone marrow transplant. Traditionally, clinicians must wait for a series of weeks to see if the bone marrow is growing, and often confirm with biopsies of the marrow weeks after infusion of cells.

The 18F-FLT is highly visible in PET and CT scans, providing a more comprehensive image of the bone marrow compartment and can better differentiate between bone marrow growth or non-growth in some patients as soon as five days  following a marrow transplantation.

“With this novel imaging, it’s the first time that someone can predict bone marrow cell growth early following an infusion,” said Holter. “We can tell more quickly if a transplant is working and if there is an early growth pattern among new blood cells and the immune system.”

In  leukemia, a patient requires extensive chemo and radiation treatments to kill out the hematopoietic stem cells (HSC) that form new blood, followed by infusion of  bone marrow (transplant) to regenerate new and healthy marrow. It can take up to four weeks for the transplanted stem cells to be evident in the blood  and bone marrow.  During this time, a patient’s immune system is highly compromised, making them susceptible to life-threatening infections until new blood cells are generated.

“This testing increases the ability to see what is going on in the marrow, helping us guide our decisions. It is also an example of why clinical trials are important. The patients involved in this study  not only may help themselves, but they are also helping improve the lives of others who may battle the disease in the future."

Leukemia is a cancer of early-forming blood cells. It is found mostly in white blood cells, but can also form in other blood cell types. The American Cancer Society estimates that more than 60,300 people in the United States will receive a leukemia diagnosis, and nearly 25,000 will succumb to the disease in 2018. The only curative therapy for Leukemia is bone marrow transplantation.

The Stephenson Cancer Center is a leader in clinical trials research, and it is ranked number one nationally for the number of patients participating in National Cancer Institute-sponsored national treatment trials. Currently, more than 220 clinical trials for promising new drugs are available at the cancer center, including 40 clinical trials for novel blood cancer therapies for adult and pediatric patients.

The study, “Imaging of subclinical haemopoiesis after stem-cell transplantation in patients with haematological malignancies: a prospective pilot study,” was published in volume 5, issue 1 of Lancet Haematology. This exclusively online journal publishes high-impact research in advance treatments in haematological clinical practice. Holter served as a co-lead author on this study. Other Stephenson Cancer Center and OU Medicine investigators who participated in this study were: Quyen Duong, MS; Sara K. Vesely, PhD; Chuong T. Nguyen, PhD; Joseph P. Havlicek, PhD; George Selby, MD; Shibo Li, MD; and Teresa Scordino, MD.

This study received funding from the National Institutes of Health, Ben's Run/Ben's Gift, Albert and Elizabeth Tucker Foundation, Mex Frates Leukemia Fund, Jones Family fund, and Oklahoma Center for Adult Stem Cell Research.

The study, “Imaging of subclinical haemopoiesis after stem-cell transplantation in patients with haematological malignancies: a prospective pilot study,” was published in volume 5, issue 1 of Lancet Haematology. This exclusively online journal publishes high-impact research in advance treatments in haematological clinical practice. Holter served as a co-lead author on this study. Other Stephenson Cancer Center and OU Medicine investigators who participated in this study were: Quyen Duong, MS; Sara K. Vesely, PhD; Chuong T. Nguyen, PhD; Joseph P. Havlicek, PhD; George Selby, MD; Shibo Li, MD; and Teresa Scordino, MD.

This study received funding from the National Institutes of Health, Ben's Run/Ben's Gift, Albert and Elizabeth Tucker Foundation, Mex Frates Leukemia Fund, Jones Family fund, and Oklahoma Center for Adult Stem Cell Research.

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