Did you know that this week is National Pathology Week?
If you’re anything like me, when I hear the word pathology I immediately think of gruesome post mortems in Silent Witness or Lewis’s lovely side kick. But of course forensic pathology is only one of 19 specialties in pathology. For blood cancer patients, indeed all cancer patients, pathology is critical to the personalisation of cancer treatment. Pathology is very much about having direct impact for living patients, but I guess that wouldn’t make a lot of sense to the Silent Witness story lines!
At a launch event for National Pathology Week at the House of Commons, I learned that 70 % of all diagnoses made in the NHS depend upon pathology. The word actually means “study of disease” – it's the analysis of bodily tissues and fluids to diagnose disease – and so it is the science behind the possibility of cures too. You may have seen the news this week that a quarter of all cancer diagnoses are made in A & E. Pathology is vital to the molecular diagnostics that might enable earlier and easier diagnosis. For example anyone who has a blood test has a pathologist involved in their care.
Haematology leads the way in molecular diagnostic testing. This means patients are more likely to have treatment based on individual analysis of their blood cancer at a molecular level. This type of analysis is increasingly being used to predict whether or not a cancer will respond to a particular drug and therefore whether or not a patient will benefit from it. It can also be used to predict how aggressive a disease is likely to be and to monitor the disease during and after treatment. As a result, patients receive a much more accurate diagnosis, and personalised treatment which may help to reduce side-effects and improve outcomes.
The Haematological Malignancy Diagnostic Service ( HMDS) at Jimmy’s in Leeds is a leader in molecular diagnostics. The HMDS laboratory provides a single centralised blood cancer diagnostic service for the 14 hospitals in the Yorkshire network. Samples from every blood cancer patient in the network are sent to the laboratory for accurate diagnosis. The Department of Health Cancer Reform Strategy recognises HMDS as “ the model for delivery of complex diagnostic services”.
HMDS is part of a collaborative effort called the Haematological Malignancy Research Network (HMRN) which brings together researchers in the Epidemiology & Statistics Group (ECSG) at the University of York, a unified Clinical Network operating across 14 hospitals, as well as the integrated Haematological Malignancy Diagnostic Service (HMDS). Thanks to a £1.8 million investment from Bloodwise, following diagnosis, patients are individually tracked, and full details of all treatments, responses and outcomes are collected to clinical trial standards.
Bloodwise is also a partner in a National Cancer Research Institute (NCRI) initiative being launched this week to provide new funding for pathology that will keep cancer research at the cutting edge. We are one of 10 partners providing over £600k in total over the next 5 years which will bring together experts from pathology and other fields to build a stronger UK base for pathology research.
So next time you’re trying to guess the baddie in Silent Witness, don’t forget pathology isn’t only about solving crimes, it’s much more about saving lives!