Last Saturday more than 100 patients, their families and fundraisers alike travelled far and wide to join us in Cardiff for a very special Research Open Day.
Head office staff set out from London in the early hours, thinking we had a long journey ahead, only to find that some of our guests had travelled from as far as Cambridge, the East Midlands and even Ireland!
Our open days give patients and supporters a unique opportunity to learn how we are beating blood cancer, see our research in action and meet the experts behind new treatments. Guests also have the chance to meet with fellow supporters, fundraisers and the friendly LLR staff :)
For this open day we decided to focus on a specific blood cancer – chronic lymphocytic leukaemia (CLL) – as opposed to looking at all the research taking place in a particular centre. As such we hoped to provide patients with a holistic view of how we can – and WILL - beat CLL, not just in Cardiff but across the UK. CLL experts from Birmingham, Liverpool and Southampton, who regularly collaborate, joined us in Cardiff to share their latest research and talk about new treatments.
We decided on Cardiff as the venue as here Dr Chris Pepper leads a very strong research team developing new drugs for CLL patients and understanding how this blood cancer develops. Plus, they have just moved into a shiny new laboratory and were keen to show it off!
Our Research Director Professor Chris Bunce opened the day with a rousing presentation laying out Leukaemia & Lymphoma Research’s strategy for beating CLL. The most significant aspect being the quantity and quality of research going on into CLL and the extent to which our researchers around the UK collaborate on key areas to ensure patient benefit. If you weren’t able to join us a slide show with live recorded audio from all our presenters is available on our Cardiff Open Day page.
I was struck by the united feeling amongst our researchers that a cure for CLL is in sight. Dr Chris Fegan, Clinical Director of Haematology for Cardiff and Vale Trust followed up Professor Bunce’s presentation to address some of the issues that patients with CLL face, and how research and clinical trials are tackling these head on. He reckons that a cure for CLL could be possible within the next decade – amazing!
It was also great to see local politicians taking notice of our work. Both the Chair of Health Select Committee, Mark Drakeford AM, and Julie Morgan AM, Chair of Cross-Party Group on Cancer in Welsh Assembly mingled with patients and researchers on the day. They commented on the positive atmosphere and seemed genuinely awe-struck with our research and lab demonstrations. With our new policy & public affairs team now in place we hope more policy-makers will hear about our work and support our fight to beat the blood cancer.
Dr Guy Pratt, Consultant Haematologist from Birmingham closed the presentation session by emphasising the importance of clinical trials that test new treatments in patients, in driving forward cures. He shared the news that we now have nine clinical trials accepted into our Trials Acceleration Programme (TAP) that is enabling us to open more clinical trials in blood cancer across the UK. TAP is hugely improving blood cancer patients’ access to cutting edge treatments and enabling research to refine and tailor treatments to patients’ needs. Both Guy and Chris Fegan were on hand during the demonstrations sessions to talk to patients one on one about clinical trials and treatment options that might be available to them. Also on display, was our brand new patient information booklet for CLL, that has been revised following feedback from patients and health professionals.
One patient commented after the event, “In the 3 years since I was diagnosed with atypical CLL, I have never felt so positive about the future. I was overwhelmed by the level of commitment, enthusiasm and empathy from everyone I met and could not ask for a better team supporting me!”
Guests then had the chance to look around the shiny new research labs and meet the teams behind the cures. Drs Andy Steele and Jon Strefford from Southampton demonstrated their work understanding the proteins and genes involved in CLL. Jon’s research uses gene sequencing technology to identify patients’ specific genetic profile to determine what treatments would benefit them most.
Drs Joe Slupsky and John Allen joined us from Liverpool to explain their use of a technique called mass spectrometry in understanding how proteins within CLL cells behave. They also put on an exciting demonstration with liquid nitrogen, to demonstrate how we store important blood cell and DNA samples from patients to support research. The LLR CLL cell bank is based in Liverpool and provides a vital resource for researchers around the country.
I would like to extend my thanks to everyone involved for a hugely successful and inspiring day.
We won’t stop until we’ve beaten blood cancer.
Watch the presentations by Professor Chris Bunce, Dr Chris Fegan and Dr Guy Pratt, recorded on the day: