The Francis Crick Institute
Improving patient care in bone marrow malignancies
Bone marrow biopsies are painful and stressful. Currently, there is no alternative way of assessing disease progression or response to treatment inside the bone marrow in leukaemia patients. I aim to reduce the need for such painful procedure by developing and implementing a non-invasive imaging method for leukemia management
Bone marrow (BM) is a spongy tissue and fluid that is inside the bones and is responsible for the production of blood cells. When a patient is suspected to have a haematological cancer (e.g. leukaemia), a BM aspiration is done to check whether there are cancer cells inside BM. It is a very invasive test consisting of inserting a needle inside the bone, collecting BM tissue, and sending it for analysis.
Multiple BM aspirations are routinely done at different stages of the disease. The BM aspiration itself takes around 30 minutes, but the patient needs to remain in the hospital for longer to be monitored for complications, especially patients opting to have a sedative due to the painful nature of the procedure. It has been reported that 35% of cancer patients who undergo BM biopsy experience severe to worst possible pain during the procedure (Lide’N, Y et al, Acta Anaesthesiol Scand, 2009). The same study found that some patients still experienced pain up to a week later. Additionally, different patients will respond differently to the procedure and its complications, which include bleeding and infection.
I am developing a pain-free, non-invasive alternative method to monitor these patients by taking advantage of the full potential of already available imaging technologies. No needles, no pain. It would be a step towards personalized treatment pathway as it could provide a quantitative prognostic method to assess the likelihood of chemotherapy resistance. It could also be used to monitor treatment response, allowing faster adjustments of treatment dosage/timings. This could change how the patient treatment pathway is managed and offer a rational decision on a more aggressive therapeutic approach from the start of treatment, instead of only once the treatment has proven not effective. This approach could also be used in long-term monitoring of stable disease and identification of relapse.
I’m actively looking for Haematologists and Radiologist who would like to join my venture in improving management of haematological patients by developing a non-invasive alternative method to BM punctures.
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