Henry Winter
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Ex-England footballer and patients help unveil Centre of Excellence in blood cancer research at Birmingham

Henry Winter
Posted by
20 Sep 2010

Blood cancer patients and survivors joined researchers and doctors at the University of Birmingham and Queen Elizabeth Hospital to celebrate its unveiling as a ‘Centre of Excellence’ by Leukaemia & Lymphoma Research.

Ex-England and Wolves footballer Geoff Thomas was among those who attended the plaque unveiling today (Monday, 20 September) at the Centre for Clinical Haematology. Mr Thomas still receives check-ups at the Centre after receiving a life-saving bone marrow transplant for leukaemia at Queen Elizabeth Hospital in 2005.

The charity currently invests more than £10 million in 26 research projects at Birmingham, which is recognised for its world-class research into improving bone marrow transplantation and also the development of new drugs to treat leukaemia and lymphoma.

The unveiling of the Centre of Excellence is part of the charity’s plans to focus investment in leading research institutions across the UK.  

Queen Elizabeth Hospital is home to one of the UK’s largest stem cell transplant centres. Transplants are often the last chance of a cure for many blood cancer patients of all ages. Unfortunately, they remain risky procedures, with potentially fatal side effects.

Leukaemia & Lymphoma Research’s scientists work closely with doctors at Queen Elizabeth Hospital to ensure that any breakthroughs in diagnosis and treatment benefit blood cancer patients throughout Birmingham and the West Midlands as soon as possible. The charity is currently investing in eight clinical trials in Birmingham.

One such trial aims to optimise the ability of the body’s immune system to eradicate leukaemia after stem cell transplants by administration of a new anti-leukaemic agent, ‘Azacitidine’.

Chris Gallimore, 63, took part in the trial after receiving a transplant in September 2009 to treat acute myeloid leukaemia. He said: “The team at Birmingham are fantastic, from the receptionists to the consultants - you feel not just in very capable hands but very caring hands as well. There’s also a wonderful interaction between scientific research and clinical application – the latest drugs are available on clinical trials and you feel that treatment is constantly moving forward.”

Another pioneering research project at the University of Birmingham is exploring the use of existing drugs in new ways for patients with blood cancers who cannot tolerate conventional treatments.

Dr David Grant, Scientific Director of Leukaemia & Lymphoma Research, said: “The key feature of our Centres of Excellence is the transfer of world class research from the laboratory to new treatments for local blood cancer patients. This is particularly impressive in Birmingham where research is showing tremendous promise and we are currently investing in eight clinical trials. This approach is vital to meet our goal of routinely curing all blood cancers.”

Charlie Craddock, Professor of Haemato-oncology at University of Birmingham and Director of the Blood and Marrow Transplant Unit, Queen Elizabeth Hospital, said: “The pace of progress in delivering new treatments for blood cancers is very exciting. Birmingham attracts leading researchers and clinical haematologists, meaning that local blood cancer patients have access to the newest and best treatment around. Investment from charities such as Leukaemia & Lymphoma Research is vital to help this to continue.”