Researchers provide a peek at likely next-generation technologies in clinical laboratory testing
Last week in Nashville, a fascinating mix of clinical laboratory scientists and pathologists came together to share some of the nation’s most progressive research anchored in diagnostic technologies and laboratory medicine. It is a side of the pathology and clinical laboratory profession that seldom gets much attention, since much of the research is of a “nuts and bolts” nature.
What brought these committed scientists to Nashville was the 45th Annual Meeting of the Academy of Clinical Laboratory Physicians and Scientists (ACLPS). Almost 200 experts were assembled. The Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine at Vanderbilt University Medical Center was the host for this year’s ACLPS annual meeting.
In its role as the ACLPS meeting host, Vanderbilt provided a number of keynote speakers. Your Dark Daily editor was present and spoke to the group. In listening to a top-notch line-up of speakers, there were at least three important observations that indicate how different technologies and research breakthroughs will likely find their way into clinical diagnostics and reshape current practices in laboratory medicine.
- In his presentation, William W. Stead, M.D., Chief Strategy and Information Officer at Vanderbilt, discussed how his institution is pursuing “disruptive innovation” as defined by Harvard Business School Professor Clayton Christensen. Stead advocates creation of a single, diagnostic report for the hospital inpatient each day which integrates clinical laboratory, pathology, radiology, and other relevant data. This single diagnostic report would be designed to support the care team in achieving the agreed care plan for that patient. Stead pointed out that, only by using computers, can clinicians manage the increasing complexity of diagnostic medicine and clinical practice.
- Vanderbilt’s biobank project was discussed by Daniel R. Masys, M.D., Professor and Chair of Biomedical Informatics at Vanderbilt. The program is called BioVU DNA Databank and uses clinically-derived samples (both blood and tissue) and data that are de-identified. Informed consent is obtained from the patients. BioVu is on track to have DNA profiles from 250,000 samples within five years. Maysis reported that only 5% of patients opt out and decline to allow DNA to be analyzed from their leftover blood or tissue.
- Richard M. Caprioli, Ph.D., Professor and Director of the Center for Mass Spectrometry at Vanderbilt, discussed his research team’s work at using mass spectrometry as a tool for what he described as “next generation histology.” One intriguing finding by his team is that, when looking at the histologic margin, the same proteins found in aggressive tumors are being produced by cells on the normal side of the histologic margin, extending as much as two centimeters on the normal side of that margin that standard histology marks as the separation between tumor and normal tissue.
ACLPS is organized to serve the academics in laboratory medicine. “This is an academic association and to be a member, the scientist must be an assistant professor or higher, stated Mitchell G. Scott, Ph.D., current President of ACLPS and Professor, Pathology and Immunology at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, Missouri. “This focus on the academic side of laboratory medicine means we have some of the most collegial meetings in this field. Further, no one is shy about speaking out so our debates are often quite vigorous and productive for this reason.”
One distinctive feature of the Academy of Clinical Laboratory Physicians and Scientists is its support of the up-and-coming generation of laboratory scientists, both M.D.s and Ph.D.s. “A major goal of ACLPS is to support what we call ‘young investigators’,” explained Scott. “For example, to showcase the work of residents and fellows who are about to finish their training, we invite abstracts of their work.
“At this year’s meeting, we had 87 abstracts submitted by young investigators,” continued Scott. “The top 55 were invited to present orally. The others were invited to present posters of their work. A full morning at this meeting was devoted to the oral presentations of the young investigators.”
In recent decades, pioneering research in different areas of diagnostic technology and laboratory medicine by members of ACLPS has directly found widespread application in clinical laboratory testing. For that reason, the presentations at each year’s ACLPS annual conference represents an opportunity to peek into the most promising research directions with the potential to be a breakthrough application in anatomic pathology and clinical laboratory testing.