Roswell Park launches advanced, high-speed blood cancer test

Test tubes on a table while a person gets prepped for a blood test

Current patients had early access to game-changing diagnostic tool.

A new Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center innovation has just gone global. Called PanHeme, it’s a test that uses next-generation gene sequencing technology to diagnose blood cancers like leukemia, lymphoma and multiple myeloma more precisely — identifying mutations in hundreds of genes — in under 72 hours, a dramatic improvement from the three- to four-week wait time for current molecular testing.

The test was recently licensed for commercial development to Agilent Technologies, Inc. a global leader in life sciences and diagnostics, and will be the first on the market to identify mutations across all hematologic malignancies.

Detecting possible gene mutations takes the diagnosis of hematologic cancers and disorders, including myelodysplastic syndromes (MDS) and myeloproliferative neoplasms (MPNs), to a more personalized level. The information about specific gene mutations helps physicians to select more appropriate therapy and drug combinations for an individual’s treatment plan, and to take action far more quickly.

The PanHeme panel covers every hematological malignancy and every mutation required to diagnose, treat and determine the prognosis for these patients. It screens the patient’s DNA and RNA looking for insertions, deletions, fusions and other variations and mutations on the patient’s chromosomes and genes.

Test for gene mutations guides treatment decisions

Pinpointing these variations is especially important for guiding treatment decisions for patients with multiple myeloma and Waldenstrom’s macroglobulinemia, a rare cancer of the white blood cells, explains Jens Hillengass, MD, PhD, Chief of Myeloma at Roswell Park. “This means we can use medications that are FDA-approved for other diseases, but that attack the same mutation that can occur in myeloma — and those medications might work better than standard myeloma treatments.”

The PanHeme test also can save patients from weeks of therapy that their cancer may not respond to. For example, the speedy return of test results for the TP-53 mutation that sometimes appears in patients with acute myeloid leukemia (AML), MDS and MPNs can save some patients from enduring therapies that are unlikely to help them. “Unfortunately, patients with that mutation are less likely to respond to therapy,” says hematologist James Thompson, MD, MS, in the Department of Medicine at Roswell Park. “The information provided by the PanHeme test allows us to offer clinical trials specifically designed for those with that mutation and avoid committing three weeks to a run of therapy that might not be effective.”

Also benefiting from the test will be the 30% of patients with AML who have the FL-T3 mutation, an indicator of more aggressive disease. “It definitely changes the type of therapy we prescribe, and it’s clinically important to have that result in a timely manner,” says Dr. Thompson.

Why choose Roswell Park?

There often are many options and sequences available for your cancer — you deserve to know all your treatment options, and have access to each one.

Become a patient

Roswell Park patients are the first to benefit

During the past 18 months, Roswell Park’s hematologic oncologists have used PanHeme to support the clinical care of more than 1,400 patients with blood cancers, running the panel on about 50 to 60 blood samples a week. The test was developed at Roswell Park by pathologist Carl Morrison, MD, DVM, Senior Vice President of Scientific Development and Integrative Medicine and Chair of the Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine, and Sean Glenn, PhD, Vice Chair of Molecular Pathology. The pair also collaborated with clinicians Eunice Wang, MD, Chief of Leukemia and Dr. Thompson, to create a comprehensive panel that could immediately benefit patients with blood cancers.