More people die from preventable blood clots than from breast cancer, AIDS, and traffic accidents combined. And chances are you’re at risk since about 900-thousand people get them every year in the US. Researchers are now taking new measures to evaluate your risk of developing potentially deadly blood clots.
The Flecks love Disney, but this isn’t a vacation. They’re in a waiting area of the hospital where Jason experienced some of his darkest days. It’s where he was treated for potentially deadly blood clotting and cancer. “I also had non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma as well. One of the nurses had said to me, had I not come in when I did, I may not have made it another day,” Jason Flecks, told Ivanhoe.
Jason stumbled onto the bad news when he fell off a trampoline at a kid’s birthday party. “I went to see an orthopedic doctor who said there’s nothing wrong with your leg, but you may have blood clotting,” said Flecks.
“It’s the number one reason why you might die in a hospital,” Florida Hospital Doctor John Francis, told Ivanhoe. And not even know you were in danger. Researchers are working on a new test to solve that mystery. It offers a full picture of how your blood cells and proteins work together to form a clot.
“We’re measuring the production in the blood of an enzyme called Thrombin. It’s really the key—too little, you bleed, too much, you clot,” explained Doctor Francis.
The goal is to eliminate preventable complications, so at-risk patients like Jason can plan family vacations for years to come.
Jason didn’t know he had the genetic blood clotting disorder until the trampoline accident. So far, knock on wood, his cancer is in remission.
Researchers are hoping to launch clinical trials for the blood clotting diagnostic test by 2014.
BACKGROUND: Blood clots can occur under many different circumstances and in many different locations. Blood clots that form in response to an injury or a cut are beneficial, stopping potentially dangerous bleeding. However, a number of conditions can cause you to develop blood clots in critical locations, such as your lungs and brain, and they require medical attention. (SOURCE: http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/blood-clots)
CAUSES: Factors and conditions that can cause blood clots, as well as serious conditions that are associated with blood clots once they form and travel to other parts of your body, include:
· Antiphospholipid syndrome
· Certain medications, such as oral contraceptives, hormone therapy drugs and some breast cancer medications
· Family history of blood clots
· Prolonged sitting or bed rest
TREATMENT: The thrombin generation assay (TGA) is the only global assay that describes the overall capacity of a patient to generate thrombin. Scientists at the Center for Thrombosis Research have further developed and standardized this sophisticated method through extensive work over the last two years. Our method now represents a fully validated, state-of-the-art way to study procoagulant activity in plasma, cancer cells and suspensions of cellular microparticles. We are also working to validate the thrombin generation assay in whole blood samples, and to establish a method for the measurement of microparticles in the blood of cancer patients. This research will contribute to our understanding of cancer-associated hypercoagulability, and could ultimately provide a critical tool for hematologists and oncologists alike, with distinct ramifications for improved patient care. (SOURCE: www.fhthrombosis.com/CurrentProjects)
John Francis, Ph.D., Director of the Florida Hospital Center for Thrombosis Research, talks about a new method for diagnosing blood clots.
Can tell me a little bit about the diagnostic test you created?
Dr. Francis: Well first of all, let me set the scene by saying that thrombosis or blood clots are the number one cause of death in the United States. Many heart attacks are blood clots; 80% of strokes are blood clots; it could the first sign of a developing cancer; it is a common cause of death in cancer; and it could be a complication of cancer treatment. Overall, it is a very important problem in the medical field. Now, we have a lot of diagnostic tests to determine whether someone is likely to bleed; for example, after a surgery, but we don’t have a very good way to predict who is likely to develop a blood clot. We have many tests that can measure little pieces of the blood clotting system; it is a very complicated system in the blood; dozens of different proteins interact to cause a blood clot or prevent a blood clot. And we can measure all of these different little pieces, but that is kind of like taking a snapshot in time. It does not really tell us anything about the risk of an individual patient developing a blood clot and that is really why we have attempted to look at the whole blood clotting system in a different way and develop this test.
So you can look at now all of it at once?
Dr. Francis: Correct, we are actually looking at all of the blood clotting system at once, and more importantly, we are looking at it in whole blood. Conventionally, most coagulation laboratories like ours even, that measure different pieces of the blood clotting system, do so in blood plasma. In other words, we separate the red blood cells from the plasma and we test the plasma. But that is not how our blood flows around our body. Looking at it in whole blood is a more physiological way, in other words, nearer the situation that exists in an individual patient and I think it is going to give us, in the long run, better results.