Liz Burtally
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Bloodwise researchers present exciting new research at European meeting

Liz Burtally
Posted by
30 Jun 2017

The European Hematology Association meeting took place at the end of June, and many of our Bloodwise researchers were there. Find out what they and others had to say.

In June, one of the biggest meetings in the haematology and blood cancer diary took place in sunny Madrid, Spain. More than 10,000 haematology experts from around the world gathered to present exciting new research at The European Hematology Association annual conference.

Lots of presentations focused on clinical trials and how research is helping to transform the lives of people living with blood cancer. We’ve rounded up a few highlights for you here, including new results from a trial that shows people with CML could be over treated, and a promising new immunotherapy for people with Diffuse Large B-Cell Lymphoma.

Spotlight on Bloodwise research

Professor Richard Clark from The University of Liverpool presented the two year results from the DESTINY trial, which was partly funded by Bloodwise. The trial looked at whether people who were doing well on their TKI treatment can remain well on a lower dose of treatment, or no treatment at all. One year data was presented at the ASH conference last year, and found that people were able to safely reduce TKI side effects by cutting their dose in half. Those who were still doing well after one year were taken off their TKI treatment. New data show that after one year of stopping their TKI treatment, 77% of people were free of signs & symptoms of CML. And people who did see their CML return, were safely returned to standard treatment.

TKI treatment.

Results from this trial were even better than the researchers expected, as another large trial has shown a lower success rate. But that trial did not ask people to take half their treatment dose for a year before stopping, so that may be a really important step.

Until DESTINY is complete, doctors will not be able to recommend taking this approach outside the setting of a trial, and it is really important that people with CML do not make changes to their medication without discussing with their doctor first.

Professor Richard Clark presenting DESTINY esults at the EHA.

Professor Peter Hillmen St James Hospital in Leeds presented results from the CLARITY trial. CLARITY is combining the targeted drug ibrutinib with venetoclax, and wants to see if this is safe and works well for people with hard to treat CLL. Ibrutinib and venetoclax appeared to be well tolerated, and there was a rapid reduction in CLL cells after 8 weeks of treatment. These early results show promise for people whose CLL has returned.

Professor Peter Hillmen presenting CLARITY results at the EHA.

Professor Charles Craddock from The University of Birmingham presented results from a trial called RavVa. Researchers wanted to see if adding vorinostat to azacitidine provides additional benefit for people with AML or MDS. Unfortunately, adding vorinostat to azacitidine did not appear to give any additional benefit. But RavVa illustrates the importance of using clinical trials to identify if a potential new treatment works, and why it succeeds or fails. And importantly, researchers found three mutations that affect the way people respond to their azacitidine treatment. This discovery will be invaluable to doctors tailoring future treatments for people with AML or MDS.

DNA samples. Credit: Wellcome Images.

Dr Andy Rawston from St James’s Institute of Oncology in Leeds presented a poster outlining the initial results from the IciCLLe trial. Results suggest that adding obinutuzumab to ibrutinib can lead to big drops in CLL cells in the bone marrow and blood after just one month of treatment. Improvements were still seen after 6 months of combination treatment. These early results look really promising for people with CLL who aren’t doing well on ibrutinib, and we will be watching out for the next update.

The CLARITY, RavVa and IciCLLe trials were funded by Bloodwise through the Trials Acceleration Programme (TAP).

Other highlights from EHA

Is hypoglycaemia a problem for people with myeloproliferative neoplasms?

In 2005 our understanding of myeloproliferative neoplasms (MPNs) was transformed when Professor Tony Green of the University of Cambridge, a Bloodwise programme grant holder, discovered a mutation in a protein called JAK2. This mutation is commonly found in people with MPN, and sends signals to cells to make them grow and develop. When JAK2 is mutated, the signals are permanently switched on, leading to unregulated cell growth. These early findings led to the development of JAK2 inhibitor drugs, including ruxolitinib, which gained its first approval in 2011.

Ruxolitinib tablets. Credit: The Pharma Letter.

Professor Green chaired a session where Professor Radek Skoda - a world leading expert in MPNs from the University of Basel - shared completely new findings about JAK2. He was able to show that mutated JAK2 causes mice to gain lean body mass and lose fat, sending their blood sugar levels down and insulin levels up. Giving mice ruxolitinib increases glucose levels, confirming that JAK2 is responsible.

Professor Skoda thinks this may mean that hypoglycaemia is a significant unidentified clinical issue for some people with advanced MPNs, although more research is needed.

Fine tuning chemotherapy to improve the outlook of people with Hodgkin lymphoma
Hodgkin lymphoma (HL) is a type of blood cancer where research has already achieved a lot, and most people with this blood cancer will respond well to treatment. Doctors now want to see if current treatments can be safely reduced, meaning that people who don’t need high dose treatment can avoid some of the side effects of treatment. Unfortunately until now there has been no way to identify who will do well.

Professor Peter Borchmann of the University Hospital of Cologne reported the final results from an international phase 3 trial called HD18. This trial has been looking at whether a type of imaging called ‘PET’ can be used to gauge how well people with HL are doing, and tailor their treatments accordingly.

Hodgkin lymphoma. Credit: Wellcome Images.

HD18 looked at hundreds of people over nearly ten years, and focused on those who had a good response to two cycles of standard chemotherapy. PET imaging was able to identify the good responders, and treatment was safely reduced to four cycles of chemotherapy from the old standard of eight. By reducing the intensity, people were able to tolerate their treatment better, resulting in an increase in the already high rates of overall survival. Results from this trial have been impressive, and are expected to result in changes to clinical practice around the world.

Promising new treatment for people with Diffuse Large B-Cell Lymphoma
Diffuse Large B-Cell Lymphoma (DLBCL) is the most common type of high-grade non Hodgkin lymphoma that develops quickly and needs urgent treatment. DLBCL is curable in some people, but when it comes back after initial treatment it can be very hard to treat, and many who relapse sadly don’t survive.

T cells surround a cancer cell (blue). Credit: National Institutes of Health.

Professor Gilles Salles from Lyon presented early results from an international study of a cellular therapy for Diffuse Large B-Cell Lymphoma (DLBCL) called ‘CAR-T’, or Chimeric Antigen Receptor T-Cell therapy. CAR-T therapy is a hot topic at the moment, and is being tested in a range of cancers. Researcher take T-cells from patients and re-engineer them so they can attack cancer cells and kill them, and put them back in the patient to do their work.

Diffuse Large B-Cell Lymphoma (DLBLC) cells. Credit: Nephron.

A trial called JULIET tested a CAR-T therapy called CTL019. Early results show that 2 in 5 people had a complete response to therapy at 6 months, with more people having a partial response. More follow up is required, but these responses seem to be durable, raising hope that this therapy may therefore provide a cure for a significant number of these people with DLBCL.

We hope you enjoyed hearing about all the exciting and promising work going on around the UK and Europe, and we look forward to updating you when new results come in.



Although I struggle understanding the science there seems to be a lot to cheer about, and it is good to know that Bloodwise is playing a huge part in helping this research go ahead