The Italian Almanac


Impressive Study

Italian researchers have shown how a cheap analysis procedure can be used to detect leukemia in children early and spare them costly chemotherapy.The study has been published in the prestigious Journal of Clinical Oncology where it was described as ''impressive'' by one of the world's top leukemia experts, Ching-Hon Pui.

Researchers in Florence, Padua and Monza examined hundreds of children with a technique called flow cytometry, where cells are blasted with electrons to see if they contain anomalies. The technique spotted the early signs of a disease called acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) in which white blood cells crowd out normal cells in the bone marrow and cause damage and death.

''This new method enables us to identify the prognosis of the young patient in a matter of days, allowing us to map out the proper treatment,'' said the study performed under the aegis of the Italian Association for Paediatric Oncologic Haematology. Researchers including Maurizo Arico' from Florence's famous Meyer children's hospital said flow cytometry was superior to the most advanced CT scans and provided ''a new indicator'' for the development of the disease.

ALL has a peak incidence at 4-12 years and although up to 85% of children survive they often have to undergo years of chemotherapy.