Oncolab

Specialised oncology and haematology testing facility.

Specialised oncology and haematology testing facility

“We are continually looking to provide better access to complex tests and diagnostic tools for South Africa’s healthcare practitioners and patients, in addition to providing companion diagnostics in order to streamline treatment decisions and ensure access to the latest pharmaceutical agents for our patients.” – Dr Robyn Marshall, Oncolab’s head haematologist.

Background

ONCOLOGY AND HAEMATOLOGY TESTING

Oncolab is a specialised oncology and haematology testing facility which provides specialised diagnostics in haematological malignancies and solid tumours that is often outside the scope of practice of other diagnostic laboratories. Its services are geared towards clinical haematologists, medical oncologists, radiation oncologists and the broader pharmaceutical industry. Oncolab currently supports some of South Africa’s largest oncology and haematology practices.

ONCOLAB REPORTING & SCREENING

Oncolab’s reports are able to guide selection of optimum therapy in cancers that are all haematolymphoid malignancies (leukaemia, lymphoma and myeloma) as well as in selected solid tumours (colorectal carcinoma, breast carcinoma, lung carcinoma). We also perform broad cancer screening (pan-cancer NGS).

World-class laboratory equipment

The Oncolab facility boasts world-class laboratory equipment. Its specialised equipment includes a flow sorter, magnetic bead sorting, 10-colour flow cytometers and next generation sequencing.

Oncolab’s tests are designed to provide clinically actionable and relevant results that can provide direct insights into patient management. The 15-strong Oncolab team is made up of pathologists, geneticists, scientists, technologists, technicians and administrative clerks. They have access to the latest international guidelines and clinical trials enabling Oncolab to provide clinicians with up-to-date treatment information that is patient-, disease- and test-specific.

Oncolab also liaises directly with medical schemes and invoices them directly thus allowing patients to focus primarily on their treatment and recovery rather than worrying about costs.

TESTS

  • PCR (various kinds)

    • BCR/ABL RQ-PCR
    • Genotyping through RT-PCR
    • Chimerism monitoring through RT-PCR

  • Next generation sequencing

    • TP53 mutation
    • BRCA1/2
    • Myeloid assay
    • Lymphoma assay
    • ALL assay
    • Aneuploidy testing
    • HLA typing
    • IGH / TCR clonality testing
    • IGHV mutational testing (CLL)
    • Minimal residual disease in lymphoid malignancies
    • Cell-free colon assay
    • Cell-free lung assay
    • Cell-free breast assay
    • Cell-free pan-cancer assay and
    • Solid tumour focus assay (FFPE tissue)
    • HLA-typing (high resolution only)
    • More assays are available upon reques

  • Cytochemistry

    • Full range for haematological malignancies

  • Cytogenetic karyotyping of leukaemia and lymphoma
  • Flow Cytometry

    • Leukaemia and lymphoma immunophenotyping
    • Myeloma phenotyping
    • Paroxysmal Nocturnal Haemoglobinuria (PNH) testing
    • Minimal residual disease estimation (AML, B-ALL, T-ALL, Myeloma, Lymphoma, CLL)

  • Haematology

    • Full blood count
    • Reticulocyte count and immature platelet fraction
    • Manual differential and buffy coats
    • ABO typing (forward and reverse)
    • Bone marrow aspirate and trephine biopsy

  • FISH – an extensive range including:

    • Myeloma panel on sorted plasma cells
    • Populations of interest may be isolated upon request

SERVICES

  • Oncolab offers a number of services. These include:

    • Routine haematology testing (full blood counts, reticulocytes, white cell differentials)
    • Bone marrow aspirate and biopsy
    • Cytochemistry
    • Cytogenetics
    • Cell culture
    • Fluorescent in situ hybridisation (FISH)
    • Flow cytometry
    • Flow cytometrical sorting of target populations
    • Magnetic isolation of target populations
    • Minimal residual disease assessment (flow cytometry, molecular testing)
    • Polymerase chain reaction (PCR)
    • Pre-transplant genotyping
    • Post-transplant chimerism monitoring
    • HLA typing
    • Next generation sequencing.

Tests previously not available in SA

Before Oncolab was established, many of the tests that this leading facility offers had to be performed at laboratories in the US and/or Europe. Samples had to be transported on dry ice at great expense to the patient as medical schemes typically do not cover testing when a sample is tested outside of South Africa. South Africa’s overburdened public healthcare sector currently offers very few of the tests that Oncolab now offers. 

Oncolab, set up through the partnership between Eurolab and Alberts Cellular Therapy (ACT), now provides a comprehensive service previously not available in South Africa while also bringing down patient costs and enhancing their care, prognosis and treatment. 

Oncolab is located at the new Midstream Hill Medical Park centre near Pretoria.

Next generation sequencing

The gene sequencer at Oncolab is innovative technology first used in diagnostic settings in South Africa in 2012. It detects genetic variants and mutations quickly and cost-effectively and is superior to previous technologies.

Once a sample is delivered, purification and preparation lasting several days is required before it can be analysed, a process which takes several hours. The data is then uploaded to a bioinformatics platform and rearranged according to advanced mathematical algorithms.

This instrument can only be used in a fully-functioning molecular diagnostic laboratory as other equipment and dedicated spaces are required to prevent contamination of samples and inaccurate results.

Interpretation of the data requires highly specialised bioinformatics systems and specially-trained pathologists.

Oncolab benefits clinicians, patients

“We rearrange and interpret raw data so clinicians can reach meaningful conclusions in order to best manage and treat their patients. We also provide information on international guidelines, clinical trials and the latest research. Our input assists with prognostic and diagnostic decisions, and helps determine the type of therapy a clinician chooses,” – Dr Robyn Marshall, Oncolab’s head haematologist.

Oncolab is currently the only laboratory in South Africa to offer validated Oncomine cell-free assays for the detection of mutations in solid tumours.