Breakthrough in Diagnosis of Lymphoma of the Skin

Three small (microRNA) molecules make it possible to distinguish, with 95% accuracy, between lymphoma of the skin and chronic skin diseases such as psoriasis and eczema. At present it may take several years to establish the correct diagnosis, but this discovery could create the basis for easy and precise testing for lymphoma of the skin in future. The new discovery has just been published in the esteemed journal Blood.

For three years, LEO Pharma, Exiqon, the University of Copenhagen, Gentofte Hospital and Rigshospitalet (Copenhagen University Hospital) have been working closely together on a new technology to distinguish between healthy and diseased cell patterns. In a multicentre study supported by the Danish National Advanced Technology Foundation, the parties have identified promising diagnostic biomarkers in the skin which make it possible to distinguish between lymphoma of the skin and chronic skin diseases such as psoriasis, eczema and atopic dermatitis (infantile eczema). The results have just been published in the esteemed journal Blood

By examining 200 patients with different types of skin diseases, the parties have succeeded in demonstrating that the level of three types of microRNA (small non-coding RNA molecules) in the skin makes it possible to say, with 95% accuracy, whether a rash is due to lymphoma of the skin or a chronic skin disease. 

This discovery is a major breakthrough that will make it possible to diagnose lymphoma of the skin much sooner and with greater accuracy than today. Lymphoma is difficult to diagnose as it can easily be confused with eczema, psoriasis or a fungal infection. With the existing methods, it may take several years to diagnose the disease, which may therefore in some cases reach a life-threatening stage. 

A future test will make it easier to diagnose skin diseases

Today no tests are available that can distinguish between malignant lymphoma and chronic skin inflammation at an early stage. It is expected that this discovery will form the basis for developing such a test within a few years. This will facilitate the diagnosis of skin diseases, to the benefit of patients worldwide. 

- Over the last three years, 20 researchers at LEO Pharma have been working intensely on this research project in collaboration with our partners. We have strengthened our insight into the use of biomarkers for the treatment of e.g. psoriasis and atopic dermatitis, but this discovery has a greater potential. LEO Pharma conducts research into a wide range of dermatological diseases, and this new knowledge could be significant, says Mads Røpke, Senior Research Scientist at LEO Pharma, adding: 

- Our findings can be used to target treatment options more specifically at the individual patient, as well as developing brand new treatment principles in the future, to the benefit of patients with serious skin diseases. 

LEO Pharma is investigating how this technology can be used to improve and tailor the treatment of psoriasis and atopic dermatitis through the development of biomarkers that can predict treatment response and disease prognosis. Furthermore, LEO Pharma will look into how its miRNA platform can be applied to identify new, promising targets for treatment of inflammatory skin diseases. 

The research project is supported by the Danish National Advanced Technology Foundation, the Lundbeck Foundation, the Novo Nordisk Foundation and the Danish Cancer Society. 

Further information

Please contact Mads Røpke, Senior Research Scientist, LEO Pharma, tel. +45 4137 1198 or Anne Katrine Nørgaard, Corporate Communications Manager, LEO Pharma, tel. +45 2875 4155.


Press release, LEO Pharma, 5.9.2011


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