Lab Briefs

Dr. Papanicolaou Honored by Google Doodle on May 13

Pathologists and medical laboratory professionals the world over had a surprise on May 13 if they used Google for an Internet search. The doodle on the Google search home page honored pathologist Dr. Georgios Papanicolaou, who developed the Pap smear test used to screen for cervical cancer.

Papanicolaou was born in 1883 in Greece. He studied medicine in Greece and Germany. In 1913, he emigrated to the United States. As early as 1928, he had noted that uterine cancer cells could be detected in vaginal smears.

Wikipedia reports that “At a 1928 medical conference in Battle Creek, Michigan, Papanicolaou introduced his low-cost, easily performed screening test for early detection of cancerous and precancerous cells. However, this potential medical breakthrough was initially met with skepticism and resistance from the medical community.

“Papanicolaou’s next communication on the subject did not appear until 1941 when, with gynecologist Herbert Traut, he published a paper on the diagnostic value of vaginal smears in carcinoma of the uterus. This was followed two years later by an illustrated monograph based on a study of over 3,000 cases. In 1954, he published another memorable work, the Atlas of Exfoliative Cytology, thus creating the foundation of the modern medical specialty of cytopathology,” said Wikipedia.

A comprehensive trial of the techniques Papanicolaou developed for non-invasive sampling of cells from the vaginal tract was conducted in the first half of the 1950s. After this time, Pap smear testing was adopted in countries around the world.

Medscape reports that “Worldwide, approximately 500,000 new cases of cervical cancer and 274,000 deaths are attributable to cervical cancer yearly, making cervical cancer the second most common cause of death from cancer in women.

Fortunately, the incidence of cervical cancer has decreased by more than 50% in the past 30+ years, largely due to the increasing use of cervical cancer screening with cervical cytology.”

This reduction in deaths from cervical cancer is the reason that the Pap smear is often called the most significant medical laboratory test ever developed.

In 1961, Papanicolaou was invited to the University of Miami to lead and develop the Papanicolaou Cancer Research Institute there. He died in Miami on February 19, 1962, at the age of 78.

Future in Testing Dogs for Cancer?

Might pathologists find a good stream of revenue from testing dogs for cancer? At least one company thinks there is a profitable future in canine cancer testing. One Health Company, founded in Philadelphia in 2015, is developing cancer diagnostics and therapeutics for canines. The company’s flagship product is FidoCure.

One Health Company will use the same biopsy tissue that was collected for diagnosis. Once it sequences the genes in the tumor tissue, it will recommend a targeted therapy for each dog. These therapies are the same as approved for use in humans.

One interesting aspect to this approach is dogs are often used to test cancer drugs. Thus, there is information about how dogs with different genes reacted to different therapies during these trials.

CNBC reported last month that “The company is working with 35 veterinarians in 11 states, including California, Washington, Colorado, Florida, Illinois and New York, and is looking to bring that total to 200. Those doctors have used FidoCure for 116 dogs in the past 14 months, with more than 50 in just the last three months. One Health is expecting to have mapped 1,000 canine cancers within the next year.”

There is no published information about the cost of this service. However, Global Market Insights reported that “the market for pet cancer therapeutics is growing at 10.8% annually, and will increase from $178 million in 2018 to $300 million by 2024.”

iPads, iPhones for Lab Test Reporting

In Australia, the 325-bed Wagga Wagga Base Hospital in the City of Wagga Wagga, New South Wales (NSW), Australia, is about to launch a pilot program to deliver medical laboratory test results in real time to the iPads, iPhones, and Apple Watches of emergency department physicians.

This is a proof-of-concept project overseen by NSW Health and the Murrumbidgee Local Health District and supported by industry partners.

“We want to give clinicians fast access to meaningful data insights which can help them to identify patients at risk of deterioration, and provide more timely mobile access to pathology [medical laboratory] results and X-rays,” said Dr. Stephen Wood, the hospital’s emergency department director.

The project will use the Miya Precision clinical decision support tool from Alcidion to send notifications to clinicians. “The platform is able to deliver additional clinical insights, including deteriorating kidney function, coagulation management, antibiotic stewardship, management of gram-negative bacterial infections, low blood glucose, and sepsis monitoring,” said Alcidion Group CEO Kate Quirke.

All of Us’ DNA Project Hits Milestone

In 2015, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) announced the creation of the “All of Us” initiative. The goal is to genetically sequence and collect health data on one million people here in the United States.

Recent numbers released by the NIH reveal that 192,000 people have enrolled. Of that number, 143,000 people have finished with all the initial steps involved in their participation.

On May 6, the NIH also announced that it was releasing the beta version of its interactive data browser. This will allow interested parties to see the data that NIH is making available for health research.

Patient privacy is getting full attention in the All of Us program. Fierce Healthcare reported that the NIH “is storing participant data on a secure, encrypted platform that receives routine updates. The program strips data of personal identifiers, such as names and addresses, and displays information only in aggregated groups. The public data browser also limits cross tabulation, or analyses of data using two or more variables such as age and sex.”

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