Increasing access to hematological cancer care for the middle of the pyramid with a microscopy-based approach


Elfar Adalsteinsson, PhD

Leukemia and lymphoma are prevalent cancers that require cell analysis for diagnosis, monitoring treatment, and post treatment screening for minimal residual disease. Currently, cell analysis is performed with flow cytometers, only available in larger medical centers. The team has engineered a novel sample processing methodology and a high-throughput microscopy-based alternate approach to flow cytometry which performs equivalent cell analysis to a standard flow cytometer without the flow component. This innovation simplifies the cost of the instrumentation, reduces the complexity (decreasing the need for specialized technicians), and reduces the costs and time delays of outsourcing samples to commercial testing labs. By reducing the cost and ease-of-use barriers, their platform holds promise to increase the cytometry-based cancer care of medium-sized hospitals, thereby increasing access for a significant portion of the middle-of-the-pyramid. The current microscopy-based system provides 2 out of 3 of the parameters measured by a traditional flow cytometer, namely, cell size (based on a measure of low-angle forward-scattering) and molecular composition (based on the presence of biomarkers indicated by fluorescent cell-labeling). The third parameter, the side-scattering measurement of a cell’s internal complexity, remains. The next steps includes the team developing a system of measuring side-scatter as a means of differentiating amongst the types of white blood cells, and will test the overall results of their technique against flow cytometry results. The data will allow them to move the technique directly into the commercialization stage with a commercial partner.