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Blood Testing Identifies Abnormal Cells Up to Six Years Prior to Leukemia Diagnosis
Date:2/20/2009

Study published in New England Journal of Medicine employs Quest Diagnostics' blood-based leukemia testing

MADISON, N.J., Feb. 20 /PRNewswire-FirstCall/ -- Testing of blood specimens may detect abnormal white blood cells in patients years before the chronic form of lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) develops, according to research published in the current issue of the New England Journal of Medicine. The finding may lead to a better understanding of cellular changes that characterize the earliest stages of the disease and how it progresses.

Researchers at the National Cancer Institute (NCI), part of the National Institutes of Health, and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, led the study, which was co-authored by two researchers with Quest Diagnostics Incorporated (NYSE: DGX), Maher Albitar, M.D., Medical Director and Chief of Research and Development, Hematology and Oncology, and Wanlong Ma, M.S., Research and Development Manager, Hematology and Oncology.

For the study, Dr. Albitar and Ms. Ma developed a method to identify abnormal B-cell clones in blood specimens. Quest Diagnostics plans to use a similar approach to develop tests that may one day be used by physicians as an aid in identifying patients who will develop CLL.

"We searched for tumor cells by performing a sophisticated form of flow cytometry as well as molecular testing on frozen samples of whole blood and blood plasma," said Dr. Albitar. "The findings of this study lead to better understanding of biological processes underlying the development of CLL, and give us hope that in the future we will be able to develop new testing techniques to look at blood from patients with abnormal cells and distinguish those who will develop overt cancer from those who will not."

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SOURCE Quest Diagnostics
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