Research findings presented at AACC hold promise for improving patient care

Leaders from the medical diagnostics, laboratory medicine, and healthcare fields convened in Houston, Texas, July 28 – August 1 for the AACC annual meeting, the world’s largest diagnostics conference and expo. Over 17,000 attendees took part in the event and the exhibit totalled more than 625 companies. A selection of research papers presented in Houston are summarized below.

New biomarkers for prostate cancer
Dimitra Georganopoulou, PhD, Ohmx Corporation, presented results of a pilot study to find a new biomarker for prostate cancer aggressiveness. The researchers measured the enzyme activity of prostate-specific antigen (PSA), termed the “aPSA”, in patient specimens that had been removed by radical prostatectomy. They wanted to determine if this activity level could be a clue to how aggressive the cancer was. The team found that there was a significant negative correlation between prostate cancer progression and the aPSA in prostatic fluid. Patients with the least amount of aPSA (PSA activity) had the most aggressive prostate cancer. Tests for an “aggressiveness biomarker” would provide critical information for making decisions about when clinical treatment should occur or when it could be postponed. Many men might be able to avoid radical treatments if their cancer was known to be non-aggressive. Likewise, men whose cancer was too aggressive to employ the “active surveillance” or “watchful waiting” approach would have more information to help them make meaningful personal decisions with the help of their doctors about what level of treatment was right for them. The findings from this study could lead to the development of a new tool to use along with existing screening tests.

PSA Enzymatic activity: A new biomarker for assessing prostate cancer aggressiveness.
Dimitra Georganopoulou, PhD, OHMX Corporation, Evanston, Ill., U.S.A.

Diagnosing cystic fibrosis at the point of care

Xuan Mu from Peking Union Medical College presented test results from cystic fibrosis patients using an exciting new point-of-care method. Microfluidics and colour changes within a Band-Aid type of adhesive strip on the skin allow the new device to rapidly, accurately, and quantitatively diagnose cystic fibrosis in a small amount of sweat. Detecting sweat chloride has been the gold standard in diagnosing cystic fibrosis for more than 50 years. The new test detects increased chloride in sweat using a colour change in paper on an adhesive strip when a very small amount of sweat is absorbed. The intensity of changed colour is recorded with a cell phone camera, and is then measured against a colour model. Cystic fibrosis in an inherited disease of the body’s mucus glands. Technically a rare disease, the incidence of cystic fibrosis varies around the world and by ethnic group. Different mutations in the CFTR gene cause the severity and symptoms of CF to vary considerably. Respiratory and digestive systems are affected, as well as sweat glands and reproductive systems.  The new point-of-care test device can distinguish healthy people from cystic fibrosis samples and conveniently integrates the many separate steps of current sweat chloride tests whose results take several hours to obtain. Treatment advances have increased the life expectancy of cystic fibrosis patients over the past several decades from the mid-teens in the 1970s to more than 36 years today in the U.S. An early diagnosis and a comprehensive treatment plan can improve both survival and quality of life of patients. This new method demonstrates a fast and cost-effective opportunity in diagnosing cystic fibrosis. 

On-site colorimetric detection of sweat chloride ion for diagnosing cystic fibrosis.
Xuan Mu, Peking Union Medical College, Beijing, China

Determining the safety of olanzapine for schizophrenia and bipolar disorder
AACC member Werner Steimer from Munich, Germany presented the results of research showing that study patients who carried a specific genetic variation in an antipsychotic-metabolizing enzyme developed significantly higher serum concentrations of the drug olanzapine. The increased drug concentrations were still noteworthy even when researchers accounted for differences in the patient’s age, sex, weight, and other medications that they used. This is the first study to demonstrate that this polymorphism influences serum levels of olanzapine, and the study is extremely timely in the context of the recent FDA safety alert on the injectable form of olanzapine, an “atypical” or second generation antipsychotic medication. Under investigation are two unexplained deaths of patients who received an intramuscular injection of Zyprexa Relprevv (olanzapine pamoate) and showed very high blood levels of the drug, although they had received appropriate doses. They died 3-4 days after injection. Olanzapine is approved by the U.S. FDA for treating schizophrenia and bipolar disorder in adults and children older than 13, and is one of the most widely prescribed of the atypical antipsychotics. Olanzapine is available in tablet, injectable, and long-acting “depot” formulations. Long acting medications can be more tolerable to some patients and help them adhere to treatment. Olanzapine is metabolized in the liver by specific cytochrome P450 enzymes. Some individuals have genetic variations – polymorphisms – of cytochrome enzymes. These can impact the way that drugs are broken down and distributed throughout the body and sometimes even the strength or effectiveness of treatment.

The CYP1A2*1D Polymorphism has a significant impact on Olanzapine serum concentrations.

Werner Steimer, MD, Klinikum Rechts der Isar – Technische Universität München, Munich, Germany.