Liquid chromatography tandem mass spectrometry (LC-MS/MS) is fast emerging as the gold standard for accurate, fast and cost-efficient clinical analyses. However, its mainstream adoption by clinical laboratories to date has been hindered by the technique’s inherent challenges: the many complex manual steps and the need for experienced operators that constrain new assay development. To delve into how these challenges could be addressed, we spoke to an expert team of three senior biomedical scientists from the Cardiff and Vale University Health Board, one of Europe’s largest health organizations.
Hurdles to Overcome
The team views LC-MS/MS as a powerful analytical tool, capable of enhancing the quality of test results to the benefit of patients and the broader healthcare system. However, based on the way their current LC-MS/MS systems are configured and used, the team perceives them as inefficient and costly. To accommodate the high test volumes and rapid turnaround time required, a limited number of tests can be run on the LC-MS/MS analyzers.
A lack of sufficient highly-trained personnel also limits the laboratory’s ability to develop new assays and perform a growing number of tests. Furthermore, the multiple, complex manual steps involved in the current LC-MS/MS workflow result in significant time inefficiencies and reduced productivity. “We’ve understood the value of LC-MS/MS systems for a long time, but the challenge is how we optimize testing with our resources,” says Luke Griffiths, senior biomedical scientist, Cardiff and Vale University Health Board.
Immunoassays versus LC-MS/MS
In response to the challenges associated with current LC-MS/MS technology, clinical laboratories tend to rely on automated immunoassay-based methods instead. Yet, the Cardiff team would much rather use LC-MS/MS, particularly for therapeutic drug monitoring, due to a number of important advantages.
LC-MS/MS is not limited by interferences commonly associated with immunoassay-based methods because the technique directly measures the analyte of interest. Rapid turnaround of results is also a key area where LC-MS/MS is superior to immunoassays. “Some LC-MS/MS-based tests take just two minutes compared to the 40 minutes that may be needed to run an immunoassay-based test,” explains Griffiths.
Unlocking the Full Clinical Potential of LC-MS/MS
A standardized, dedicated LC-MS/MS system with a broad and expandable testing menu has been identified by the Cardiff team as the optimal solution to relieve these pain points. We have listened carefully to these needs, and have a vision to support biomedical and clinical scientists with the development of the Thermo Scientific™ Cascadion™ SM Clinical Analyzer, an automated LC-MS/MS system with a scalable menu that resolves the challenges presented by current technology.