Research News New multiple myeloma diagnostic method enables earlier relapse detection

19 February 2024

Researchers at the department of laboratory medicine have developed a novel blood test for sensitive detection of multiple myeloma, the second most prevalent hematologic malignancy. With the novel method based on mass spectrometry, they can detect the biomarker associated with the disease up to 1000 times more sensitively than was previously possible. With the introduction of an off-the-shelf calibrator, the personalized blood-based test is now applicable for larger groups of patients.

Multiple myeloma is a disease characterized by uncontrolled plasma cell proliferation in the bone marrow and affects approximately 1300 individuals in the Netherlands annually. Despite the introduction of novel successful therapies, multiple myeloma remains incurable. The key to effectively manage the disease in the future lies in early detection of its recurrence. Traditionally, minimal residual disease  is evaluated on invasive bone marrow aspirations. However, malignant plasma cells also secrete a monoclonal antibody known as the M-protein which can be tracked within patients' blood samples. “The challenge has been to develop a detection method possessing the requisite sensitivity to identify even trace amounts of the M-protein”, says PhD candidate Charissa Wijnands.

The multidisciplinary research team of medical immunologist Hans Jacobs has pioneered a methodology capable of detecting the M-protein 1000 times more sensitive than other blood test through the application of mass spectrometry. Nevertheless, a significant challenge has been the necessity for a patient-specific calibrant to quantify the M-protein rendering the test less feasible for application across larger patient cohorts. ”We have succeeded in the development of a workflow that uses a universal calibrant that is the same for every patient. This improvement makes the test easier to use and better applicable to larger groups of patients”, says Wijnands.

The researchers now focus on automating their workflow to increase the turn-around-time of their blood test. ”Our mass spectrometry method measures personalized targets that need to be identified for each individual patient, which is a time consuming process”, Wijnands explains. “We are now building novel  algorithms that allows both automated target identification and automated data analysis. This is the next step towards clinical implementation of our novel blood-test in routine diagnostics”.


This work is published in the current issue of Clinical Chemistry and Laboratory Medicine.

Wijnands C, Langerhorst P, Noori S, Keizer-Garritsen J, Wessels HJCT, Gloerich J, Bonifay V, Caillon H, Luider TM, van Gool AJ, Dejoie T, VanDuijn MM, Jacobs JFM. M-protein diagnostics in multiple myeloma patients using ultra-sensitive targeted mass spectrometry and an off-the-shelf calibrator. Clin Chem Lab Med. 2023 Oct 12;62(3):540-550. doi: 10.1515/cclm-2023-0781. PMID: 37823394; PMCID: PMC10808047.


Picture from left to right; Charissa Wijnands, Pieter Langerhorst, Hans Jacobs

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