Mar 15

Space for measurement science in supporting everyday healthcare decisions

BSW2016RGBMID_BGREEN-500x322During this year’s British Science Week we are taking the opportunity to highlight work showing that there is a space for measurement science in everyday healthcare decisions.

Early-career research scientist Dima Almekdad was selected to present the work described below at the prestigious SET for BRITAIN on 7 March 2016 at the House of Commons, Westminster.

Of her experience she said:

“Walking into Parliament premises with my poster tube to talk about therapeutic drug monitoring of immunosuppressant drugs was the last thing I expected I would do as a scientist. I was fortunate enough to talk about my research with Andrew Smith MP, Labour Member of Parliament for Oxford East, who was not only interested in my research but also very supportive of scientific research and its importance for the UK economy.”

Dima and her colleagues have been developing fully validated methods and certified reference materials to improve standardisation of immunosuppressant drug monitoring. This will help to remove inherent measurement variation between hospitals and ultimately improve patient welfare.

Immunosuppressants are used to prevent patients rejecting a donor organ after a transplant, allowing an otherwise totally foreign body to remain functional for years. With 4,500 organ transplants carried out in the UK each year, there are tens of thousands of people for whom monitoring the dosages of these drugs is crucial.

Materials for the two most commonly prescribed immunosuppressants, tacrolimus (blood matrix, ERM-DA110) and sirolimus (pure material, ERM-AC021) are currently available, produced under LGC’s accreditation to ISO Guide 34, with further materials to be released later in 2016.

In addition to these reference materials, the developed methods have been used to supply target reference values to samples used for external quality assurance (EQA) schemes between hospitals and to support manufacturers in the validation of novel diagnostic kits to ensure they are fit for use.

Better measurements will reduce the healthcare burden on the NHS. In a recent study approximately 15% of transplant recipients treated with the immunosuppressant tacrolimus rejected their donor organ. If this rejection rate is applied to the UK’s kidney transplant patient population of ~2000 people in 2014/15 that equates to £4.6 million of NHS money spent on an unsuccessful intervention. Improving the accuracy of immunosuppressant monitoring through the use of higher order reference standards could reduce the number of rejections, preventing the need for further intervention and saving the NHS several million each year when applied across the range of organ transplants.

Beyond the financial implications, a well-controlled therapeutic drug monitoring regime can mean the difference between life and death for some organ transplant patients. Accurate measurements for therapeutic drug monitoring give patients the best possible chance of an improved quality of life, away from hospital beds and dialysis machines.

This is one example that shows how measurement science occupies a crucial space in supporting everyday healthcare decisions.


Dima is currently undertaking a part-time PhD at King’s College London, supervised by Chris Mussell (LGC), Mark Parkin and Leon Barron (King’s College London).


For further information on our reference materials, or to purchase ERM-DA110 or ERM-AC021, please contact our sales team.


LGC, the UK’s Designated Measurement Institute for chemical and bio-measurement

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