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A genetic test developed by CombiMatrix will soon be available to determine prognosis for chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL). The test, known as HemeScan™, has proven useful in the management of hematological malignancies such as leukemia and lymphoma.

Chronic lymphocytic leukemia is the most common form of adult leukemia. The American Cancer Society estimated that approximately 8,000 people would be diagnosed with CLL in 2007. Currently, there are approximately 60,000 people in the United States living with CLL.

Chronic lymphocytic leukemia is characterized by the production of atypical lymphocytes. Lymphocytes are specialized immune cells that exist in two forms: B- and T-cells. These cells are produced in the bone marrow and each serves a specific function in helping the body fight infection.

Disease characteristics and outcomes for CLL vary greatly from patient to patient. In order to determine the best course of treatment for each patient, researchers are evaluating ways to more accurately predict individual outcomes. Genetic evaluation is one possible way to better understand certain disease characteristics and to then individualize treatment plans accordingly. A number of genes have already been identified that play a part in the development of certain types of cancer. Genetic testing analyzes the patient’s genetic code to look for any genetic alterations that may indicate an increased risk for developing a specific disease. Genetic testing may also be helpful in evaluating prognosis for certain types of cancer.

In addition to using genetic testing to predict disease prognosis, recent studies have shown that identification of specific abnormal chromosomes allow patients to be categorized by levels of prognostic risk based on an International Prognostic Scoring System (IPSS).The IPSS score stratifies the patient into “good”, “intermediate”, and “poor” risk categories based on the patient’s genetic test results. HemeScan integrates these results to provide important information for treatment planning and patient management.

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HemeScan has proven to be a useful and reliable test for evaluating prognosis and determining treatment for CLL and other cancers resulting from chromosomal abnormalities (errors in the genetic code that cause cells to grow and reproduce abnormally). The HemeScan test uses fluid samples removed from the bone marrow to provide an overview of all the genetic abnormalities, as well as identify established genetic markers that may be helpful in predicting the disease’s clinical course. At this point researchers have validated the use of HemeScan for CLL, as well as acute lymphoblastic leukemia and myelodysplastic syndrome. Current testing is underway for use of HemeScan in multiple myeloma.

HemeScan was developed in collaboration with several academic centers including M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, The University of Texas Health Science Center in San Antonio, and the Netherlands Cancer Institute in Amsterdam.

Reference: CombiMatrix. CombiMatrix Will Collaborate with Clarient to Market, Sell Novel Genomics-Based Test for Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia. Available at . January 31, 2008.

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