An Update on Myelodysplastic Syndrome, Flow Cytometry, and Risk of Leukemia

A recent article in Labroots stated that the majority of patients who have preleukemic disorders may not be candidates for leukemia. Estimates are that there are about ten to fifteen thousand new cases of MDS in the U.S. annually.

However, approximately one-third of MDS patients may develop acute myeloid leukemia (AML).

For years doctors referred to MDS as “preleukemia” because a small percentage of MDS patients develop acute myeloid leukemia (AML). New findings suggest that gene changes and other premalignant conditions may also lead to a greater risk of leukemia. As a result, doctors now consider these diseases to be separate conditions.

The diagnosis of MDS should involve a complete blood count (CBC), giving information about the type and the number of blood cells in the body. A peripheral blood smear, a test that describes the number and shape of the three major blood cells, is also recommended. In the CBC test, a drop of blood is examined with a microscope identifying any abnormal changes in the size, shape, number, and appearance of the blood cells.

If MDS is suspected, cytogenetic studies (the study of chromosomes and related diseases) and a bone marrow test should be conducted.

Authors of six studies on the subject noted in their manuscripts that FCM, combined with other diagnostic devices, helped doctors determine more accurately whether or not the patients being examined had MDS.

About Flow Cytometry (FCM)

FCM analyzes cell characteristics. Different proteins within the cells or bound to the cells are tagged with antibodies using fluorescent-type labels. The cells are submerged in fluid and injected into the flow cytometer.

The researchers analyze the cells according to their proteins and their size.

About MDS

MDS is the result of abnormal cells found in the human bone marrow. These defective blood cells have a shorter life span than normal cells. An article published in Clinical Cytometry illustrates the way in which flow cytometry (FCM) works in tandem with various diagnostic tests. It creates a more definitive diagnosis.

In MDS, the blood cells are of an irregular shape and size (dysplasia). Another result from a peripheral blood sample is the identification of blast cells. If the number of blast cells in the bone marrow exceeds 5%, further testing is needed as it may be an indication of blood or bone disorders.

Blood Types

Most people are familiar with the three main blood types:

  • Red blood cells transport oxygen from the lungs to other parts of the body
  • White blood cells consist of immune cells that guard against foreign invaders
  • Platelets which are small pieces of cells are involved with blood clotting

When the counts of one of the aforementioned blood cells are low, it is called cytopenia resulting in anemia, leukopenia, or thrombocytopenia respectively.

If a patient with cytopenia is suspected of having MDS, current testing includes analysis with flow cytometry.

When the three types of blood cell counts are low, it is known as pancytopenia.

In Conclusion

The researchers emphasize that flow cytometry works with other diagnostic tools for faster and more efficient diagnosis in clinical investigation.

Rose Duesterwald

Rose Duesterwald

Rose became acquainted with Patient Worthy after her husband was diagnosed with Acute Myeloid Leukemia (AML) six years ago. During this period of partial remission, Rose researched investigational drugs to be prepared in the event of a relapse. Her husband died February 12, 2021 with a rare and unexplained occurrence of liver cancer possibly unrelated to AML.

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