The first step in the continuum of cancer care is obtaining an accurate and highly specific diagnosis.
The complexities of standard-of-care diagnosis require proper tissue procurement followed by specialized methods, including immunohistochemistry (IHC), fluorescent in situ hybridization (FISH), and molecular assays. In countries like Guatemala, where cancer causes 11% of deaths, diagnostics are largely inaccessible to most patients. Barriers to implementing advanced diagnostic approaches in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) include high cost and the lack of well-trained personnel.
Leukemia and lymphoma are among Guatemala’s most common causes of cancer death. Recent evidence indicates that transcription-based diagnostics can classify some types of lymphoma with equal or greater precision than traditional methods. In partnership with the INCAN cancer hospital in Guatemala City, Guatemala and the Natkunam laboratory at Stanford University we are working on the development of an inexpensive transcription-based diagnostic assay that would not only increase access to diagnosis in Guatemala but could also identify patients suitable for treatment with less toxic, targeted therapies. It is our hope that such a model could be scaled to other regions and malignancies.