A new screening test to be piloted in Bristol could help to revolutionise the way children with leukaemia are treated by enabling doctors to fine tune treatment to the needs of each individual patient.
Experts from five centres - Bristol, Glasgow, Leeds, London and Sheffield - will pilot the test for the most common form of the childhood leukaemia - acute lymphoblastic leukaemia (ALL). The team at the University of Bristol and Bristol Royal Hospital for Children is using special technology called RQ- PCR (real time quantitative polymerase chain reaction) to measure the residual cancer cells - known as minimum residual disease - that remain after a child`s treatment.
All children treated for this cancer will have some residual leukaemia cells in their bone marrow that remain after the first month of chemotherapy. The level may fluctuate between 1/20 cells and 1/ 10,000 cells. Research in the UK and Europe has shown that the higher the level of residual disease the more likely a child is to relapse. Until now, the problem has been that conventional techniques are not sensitive enough to accurately measure the levels of residual leukaemia cells.
Joanne Fryer | alfa
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