SOUTHAMPTON scientists have played a part in developing a way to predict whether or not someone will develop a common type of leukaemia based on their genetics.

Researchers studied blood samples of patients with the most common type of blood cancer, Chronic Lymphocytic Leukaemia (CLL), and found some had a "genetic tendency" to develop progressive forms of the illness.

The team, from eight universities and the Institute for Cancer Research, said their work could see prospective patients being warned in the future that they also possess the genetic make-up which could lead to developing progressive CLL.

Such patients could be given a personalised treatment process before the illness takes effect.

Haematology consultant Dr David Allsup, who is also a senior lecturer at Hull York Medical School, said: "The study has demonstrated that CLL patients often possess the same genetic tendencies, and as such we can analyse the non-cancerous cells of prospective patients to predict the likelihood of future diagnosis.

"The study also allows us to move towards a more personalised diagnosis of leukaemia, and adapt our approach for patients based on the likelihood of them developing aggressive symptoms."

CLL varies in its severity among patients, with some developing weight loss and lumps in their necks and armpits, while others show no symptoms, despite the leukaemia cells being present within their blood.

Dr Allsup added: "Not only does the research inform us if patients have the genetic tendency to develop progressive CLL, but it also enables us to determine whether or not a patient's CLL will require treatment in the future or not.

"That way, we are able to keep a close eye on the patients with a high risk, and have treatment options available as soon as they are required."

Professor James Allan, from Newcastle University's Centre for Cancer, said: "Emerging evidence suggests that early treatment for patients at high risk of developing progressive CLL could significantly delay the onset of symptomatic leukaemia and improve survival.

"The results from this collaborative study will help patients and their doctors make important decisions about when to start treatment."

While the discovery is not a cure for the disease, early identification will help people's survival chances.

The study was a collaborative effort between nine UK institutions, including Hull York Medical School, Newcastle University, Cardiff University, Leeds University, Leicester University, Liverpool University, Oxford University, Southampton University, and the Institute for Cancer Research in London.