Posts tagged ‘LGL’
Imagine if various types of cancer were caused by a common, though currently unknown, virus. The implications for treatment options and methods of prevention could be enormous. The discovery of infectious agents, such as the human papillomavirus as the root cause of cervical cancer, opens the door to the idea that other viruses might be at work in the genesis of cancer development.
This theory is about to be tested further by Thomas P. Loughran, M.D., and his colleagues at Penn State Hershey Cancer Institute. But Loughran is no stranger to being at the forefront of cancer research.
The LGL discovery
As outlined in this previous Penn State Medicine article, Loughran, who is a professor of medicine at Penn State College of Medicine and director of the Cancer Institute, is responsible for the discovery of large granular lymphocyte (LGL) leukemia while he was an oncology fellow at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Washington. He has spent most of his career researching the development of the disease and establishing a treatment protocol, which has allowed many patients to live healthier and more productive lives. In 2003, he started an LGL leukemia registry to keep track of patient outcomes.
One of the most challenging aspects of LGL leukemia is getting an accurate diagnosis. Patients often present with chronic symptoms, such as joint pain, fevers, and immune system problems that can be misdiagnosed as rheumatoid arthritis (RA) or aplastic anemia.
“The diagnosis is clouded by the fact that the symptoms are not obvious,” Loughran says. “Patients can have morbidity with tiredness, shortness of breath, pain, and swelling of the joints. Ten to 30 percent have classic RA. This is a chronic disease, though, with a major complication being infections.”
A diagnosis of LGL leukemia is not difficult to come by if medical professionals know what to look for, which is an increased number of LGL cells that can be seen on a blood smear. But because this can easily be overlooked in basic blood tests, it often takes a recurrence of symptoms before an accurate diagnosis of LGL leukemia is reached. (more…)
To really appreciate this story, we have to start at the end—simply put, there are people alive today because of a discovery made by an oncology fellow in the mid 1980s. And not just alive-these people are doing well, living healthy and full lives, sometimes symptom-free, because one doctor, Thomas P. Loughran Jr., M.D., professor of medicine and director, Penn State Hershey Cancer Institute, noticed something that no one else did.
“He’s a super doctor,” says George Graham of Bryn Athyn, Pennsylvania, one of Loughran’s patients who was unable to find appropriate treatment for large granular lymphocyte (LGL) leukemia at other facilities.
Loughran came to discovering LGL through what might be considered standard detective work—he reviewed patient labs and blood smears and kept looking. During a rotation at the University of Washington, Loughran saw a patient who was referred to the chief resident with an unknown illness and a history of recurrent fevers and infections. Upon reviewing the patient’s blood smear, Loughran was the first to notice that the patient’s white cells were granular lymphocytes that were larger than they should be. After reviewing the previous five years of records of the hematopathology laboratory directed by Marshall Kadin, M.D., he realized that other patients with similar histories also had the unusual white cell appearance. Loughran and Kadin went on to publish their discovery and subsequent research in the Annals of Internal Medicine. (more…)