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University of Western Australia invents automated technique to benefit leukaemia patients

A world-first medical invention by the researchers from the University of Western Australia (UWA) can detect abnormal chromosomes inside leukaemia cells.

According to the announcement made by the UWA, their invention is a finalist for the 2018 Australian Museum Eureka Prize for its capability to detect as few as one abnormal cell in 10,000 normal cells, which is considered as a significant improvement on existing detection methods.

This is good news for patients with leukaemia as they can now be closely monitored at any stage of their disease in order to assess their response to the treatment. This will also deliver an early indication of recurrence.

Cancer diagnostics will be greatly improved, which will lead to more individualised treatments and better patient care.

Immuno-flowFISH is an automated technique that uses imaging flow cytometry developed by Professor Wendy Erber, Dr Kathy Fuller and Mr Henry Hui from the UWA Medical School.

Chronic lymphocytic leukaemia is the most common type of leukaemia in Australia which affects 3% of people over 60 years old. The Immuno-flowFISH method was used by the team to study this type of leukaemia.

Professor Wendy Erber explained that their method adds a new dimension to how leukaemia can be assessed and how treatment decisions are made.

She added that they have now expanded the test in order for it to be applied to other types of leukaemia and cancers as well, highlighting that the method they have invented offers a significant potential impact for patients with these diseases.

Moreover, the invention promises a new era for diagnostic accuracy, personalised treatment and overall health outcomes for patients with cancers.

Excellence in the fields of research and innovation, leadership, science engagement and school science are usually recognised during the annual Australian Museum Eureka Prizes. For the Immuno-flowFISH invention, UWA was selected as a Eureka finalist for Innovative Use of Technology.

Professor Erber shared that being selected as a finalist for the Eureka Award was a great honour and the research team was delighted to have their work acknowledged because of the difference it will make to patients.

Prize winners include scientists and researchers whose contributions are helping solve some of the greatest challenges facing humanity and fostering the nation’s next generation of scientific leaders and researchers.

The Eureka Prize winners will be announced on 29 August 2018.

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