Henry Winter
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Million pound myeloma research boost

Henry Winter
Posted by
20 Feb 2013

A research programme developing new drugs for a currently incurable type of cancer is underway at the University of Sheffield, thanks to a £1.1 million grant from the charity Leukaemia & Lymphoma Research.

Myeloma is a cancer of the white blood cells that causes bone marrow and renal failure, as well as debilitating bone disease. Despite often successful initial chemotherapy, patients will relapse. Life expectancy after diagnosis for older patients is just three and a half years.

Dr Andrew Chantry’s team at the University’s Medical School and Department of Biomedical Sciences is combining new approaches to tackling myeloma which will target the cancer and, for the first time, not just halt bone damage, but also repair it. 

Dr Chantry said: “As well as eventually being fatal, myeloma causes substantial pain and loss of mobility. We hope to significantly improve current treatments by testing a range of new compounds which can stimulate the bone formation process and help regrowth of healthy bone.  

“We believe that relapse happens because a certain percentage of myeloma cells are able to lie dormant and avoid treatment. If we can detect how these cells are distinct from other myeloma cells, we can use combinations of recently introduced chemotherapy drugs to target them.”

As well as studying the effects of a range of anti-cancer and bone formation drugs in the laboratory, the researchers will use cells from myeloma patients to conduct genetic research into the causes of myeloma.

Professor Chris Bunce, Research Director at Leukaemia & Lymphoma Research, said: “This project directly addresses both the need to eradicate those cancer cells which can avoid standard chemotherapy and the need for drugs to target the devastating bone disease caused by myeloma. 

“If this laboratory research is successful, it will pave the way for clinical trials in patients. It has the potential to decrease suffering and take strides towards establishing a cure for the disease.”