The latest stories from the world of pathology and laboratory medicine
Luke Turner | | Quick Read
Too Little, Too Late
Approximately 115,000 cancer patients in England each year are diagnosed too late to ensure the best chance of survival. That’s according to Cancer Research UK, who say that almost half of all cancers are diagnosed at stage III or IV. They blame a desperate shortage of National Health Service staff for the figures and call for increased recruitment of pathologists, radiologists, and oncologists to fill the vacancies. The UK government has already pledged to increase the number of cancer patients diagnosed early from 50 to 75 percent by 2028 (1).
A Splash of Color
Pathology is a field packed full of beautiful and intricate images. In fact, pathology is so much like art that the UK’s Royal College of Pathologists has launched a coloring book that includes a series of drawings by scientist-turned-artist Lizzie Burns. The resource, called Incredible You, includes all 17 pathology specialties and was designed to support learning and relaxation for all ages. Jo Martin, President of the Royal College, said, “We hope people will use our resources to express their creativity, de-stress, and discover more about our bodies.” Incredible You can be accessed for free at tp.txp.to/IncredibleYou (2).
Exploring the Unknown Genome
Although the Human Genome Project was completed in 2001, many regions of the genome remain uncharted because they are invisible to most current sequencing technologies. With the help of fiber FISH and Bionano optical mapping, new research has uncovered an unprecedented – and extreme – level of variability in the DNA on chromosome 22 (22q11). The new sequencing approach could uncover links between the amount of DNA in this region and a disposition to 22q11 syndrome (3).
Barrett’s Esophagus: An Update
An updated version of the “ASGE guideline on screening and surveillance of Barrett’s esophagus” has been published by The American Society for Gastrointestinal Endoscopy. As a precancerous condition, the role of screening and surveillance of Barrett’s esophagus plays a crucial part of the new guideline, especially as early detection of esophageal adenocarcinoma provides the best chance of successful treatment. The utility of techniques such as chromoendoscopy, confocal laser endomicroscopy, and endoscopic ultrasound are all discussed in the updated recommendation (4).
The Color of Colon Cancer
A new urine test that can indicate the presence of colon cancer has proved successful in mice. The technology uses ultra-small gold nanoclusters (AuNCs) connected to a protein carrier, which are broken down by matrix metalloproteinases (MMPs) after being injected into the mice. Many cancer types – including colon tumors – produce high levels of MMP enzymes, which act on the nanosensors in the tumor microenvironment. When broken apart, the AuNCs are small enough to be filtered through the kidneys and produce a blue color change in the urine (5).
- Cancer Research UK, “Lack of government action on NHS staffing undermines ambition to diagnose cancer early” (2019). Available at: https://bit.ly/2m2beIU. Accessed September 19, 2019.
- The Royal College of Pathologists, “Incredible You – A new colouring-in pathology resource for all ages” (2019). Available at: https://bit.ly/32JO4b5. Accessed September 19, 2019.
- W Demaerel et al., “The 22q11 low copy repeats are characterized by unprecedented size and structural variability”, Genome Res, 29, 1389 (2019). PMID: 31481461.
- ASGE Standards of Practice Committee, “ASGE guideline on screening and surveillance of Barrett’s esophagus”, Gastrointest Endosc, 90, 335 (2019). PMID: 31439127.
- CN Loynachan et al., “Renal clearable catalytic gold nanoclusters for in vivo disease monitoring”, Nat Nanotechnology, 14, 883 (2019). PMID: 31477801.