Shannon Brankley and Sarah Kerr, M.D., Recognized for Abstract Awards at 2014 ASC Conference

At the 2014 American Society of Cytopathology (ASC) annual meeting held this past November in Dallas, Shannon Brankley and Sarah Kerr, M.D., received abstract awards for their poster and platform presentations.

Shannon Brankley
Shannon Brankley

Brankley, et. al. received the “Geno Saccomanno, M.D., New Frontiers in Cytology Award” for her study entitled, “Fluorescence in Situ Hybridization (FISH) for Anaplastic Lymphoma Kinase (ALK) Gene Rearrangements on Previously Stained Routine Cytology Specimens.” Authors included Brankley; Michael R. Henry; Kevin Halling; M.D., Ph.D.; Joanne (Eunhee)Yi, M.D.; Douglas Minot; Jesse Voss; Ekaterina Pestova, Ph.D. (Abbott Molecular); Minghao Song (Abbott Molecular); Sarah Kerr, M.D.; Emily Barr Fritcher; and Benjamin Kipp, Ph.D.

Sarah Kerr, M.D.
Sarah Kerr, M.D.

Kerr, M.D., et. al. received the “ASC Foundation: Future of the Profession Award” for her abstract entitled, “Cellular Cytology Smears Provide Sufficient Tumor DNA for Theranostic Next-Generation Sequencing: A Study Defining ‘Molecular Adequacy.’” Authors included Kerr; Gleeson Ferga, M.B., B.Ch.; Michael Campion; Douglas Minot; Jesse Voss; Michael J. Levy, M.D.; and Benjamin Kipp, Ph.D.

About the Awards
The Geno Saccomanno, M.D., New Frontiers in Cytology Award was established in 1993 and is presented to an ASC member who is not nominated for another abstract award. The paper must contribute to a better understanding of cell biology or enhanced diagnosis and show significant innovation, good study design, and potential diagnostic utility.

New in 2008, the ASC Future of the Profession Award is presented to either a platform or poster presentation addressing the issues regarding the evolving role of cytopathologists and cytotechnologists in our changing environments.

About the Abstracts
Brankley’s presentation provided data regarding her team’s experience with an off-label usage of a FISH assay, utilizing the Vysis ALK Break-Apart FISH Probe Kit (Abbott Molecular, Inc.), to detect ALK gene rearrangements using previously stained, routine cytology slides. Crizotinib is FDA-approved for the treatment of NSCLC patients whose tumors are ALK(+) as detected by its companion diagnosis assay, which is a FISH test that utilizes the Vysis ALK dual color, break-apart FISH probe kit to assess for ALK gene-rearrangement status. Currently, this FISH test is FDA-approved for use on formalin-fixed, paraffin-embedded (FFPE) tissue specimens only. Unfortunately, not all ALK targeted therapy candidates have sufficient FFPE material for ALK testing. The team’s data shows that the detection of ALK rearrangement, using the Vysis ALK Break-Apart FISH probe set, is possible using routine, cytology slides and therefore, may be useful as an alternative source of testing when FFPE material is not available.

In Kerr’s poster, it was noted that cancer samples are increasingly collected through minimally invasive procedures that yield cytology smear specimens. The team believes that this type of specimen has been underutilized for theranostic applications like next-generation sequencing (NGS) even though it is a potentially better specimen in terms of DNA quality and tumor purity versus the routine formalin-fixed, paraffin-embedded tissue used currently for most cancer theranostic tests. Additionally, cytologic smears can be used by cytotechnologists and cytopathologists to provide direct feedback on specimen adequacy at the patient bedside during the procedure. This feedback can help the doctor performing the procedure obtain the right amount of material for diagnosis and molecular testing. This study was part of development work to establish the characteristics of cytology samples that can be used successfully for NGS. The team expects to be able to offer testing from cytologic smears for the Mayo Clinic 50-gene solid tumor targeted NGS cancer panel soon in the clinical lab. The team members have plans to expand this sample type to other cancer tests, as well.

About the American Society of Cytopathology
Founded in 1951, the ASC is a distinguished national professional society of physicians, cytotechnologists, and scientists who are dedicated to the cytologic method of diagnostic pathology. The ASC’s diverse membership includes representatives from all over the world who share a vision of education, research, and continuous improvement in the standards and quality of patient care. For more information about ASC, visit

Kelley Luedke (@kschrib)

Kelley Luedke

Kelley Luedke is a Marketing Channel Manager at Mayo Clinic Laboratories. She is the principle editor and writer of Insights and leads social media and direct marketing strategy. Kelley has worked at Mayo Clinic since 2013. Outside of work, you can find Kelley running, traveling, playing with her kitty, and exploring new foods.