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ASH partners with AMEH and National Cancer Institute to improve diagnosis of leukemia in Mexico

(MEXICO CITY, April 8, 2011) A workshop being held today will serve as the launch of a unique project that unites the American Society of Hematology (ASH), the Agrupacin Mexicana para el Estudio de la Hematologa (AMEH), and the National Cancer Institute (NCI) in pursuit of a common goal: improving the care of patients with acute myeloid leukemia (AML). The key to successfully treating AML, a type of blood cancer characterized by rapid growth of abnormal white blood cells, is to look for changes in the chromosomes of the leukemia cells a process known as cytogenetic analysis. In 2009, leaders of AMEH approached ASH with concerns that the cytogenetic testing available to Mexican hematologists was not sufficiently accurate to properly diagnose and treat patients with AML. ASH enlisted the help of NCI's Office of Latin American Cancer Program Development (OLACPD), which agreed to provide its expertise on cytogenetic testing as part of a pilot program to standardize and improve the quality of testing in these labs. After a competitive selection process, four laboratories two in Mexico City, one in Guadalajara, and one in Morelia were chosen to participate. Oversight of the two-year project will be provided by a steering committee composed of scientists representing ASH, AMEH, and NCI.

"The recent scientific literature has underscored the importance of understanding the types of chromosomal abnormalities present in patients with AML in order to tailor their treatments to be most effective," said David Gmez Almaguer, MD, PhD, President of AMEH and member of the steering committee. "We believe that by raising the standards of cytogenetic testing in these laboratories, this program will ultimately result in better outcomes for patients with AML, which is the most common type of acute leukemia in adults as well as one of the more common forms of leukemia in children."

Today's workshop will include presentations about the standardization protocol and processes. After the workshop, the four participating laboratories will enter cytogenetic data into the Pediatric Oncology Network Database (POND), a clinical data collection tool maintained by St. Jude Children's Research Hospital that allows users at multiple locations across the globe to share their data in a secure online environment. A scientific subcommittee of experts representing ASH, AMEH, and NCI will periodically review the data and provide each laboratory with a quarterly summary of their performance compared with target metrics. Laboratories that do not achieve the target metrics will receive guidance from the scientific subcommittee to help them improve performance.

"Our goal is to create a sustainable program, with the hope that eventually these four laboratories can serve as models to train other laboratory personnel throughout Mexico," said Michelle Le Beau, PhD, an expert in cytogenetics who represents ASH on the steering committee. "We are optimistic that this collaborative effort will result in significant, measurable improvements in the accuracy of cytogenetic testing for AML in Mexico."

The following laboratories have been selected to participate in the pilot, based on the number of AML cases and percentage of abnormalities they typically encounter, as well as their success rate, available resources such as personnel and equipment, and geographic distribution:

Laboratorio de Analisis de Oncohematologa, Mexico City Nuevo Hospital Civil, Guadalajara Laboratorios Mendel, Morelia Genetica y Estudio Pre y Postnatal, Mexico City


Contact: Julia Garca Velzquez
American Society of Hematology

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