Alasdair Rankin, Director of Research at Bloodwise, the blood cancer research charity
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Our blood cancer research in 2016

Alasdair Rankin, Director of Research at Bloodwise, the blood cancer research charity
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17 Jan 2016

Let me begin by saying I’m incredibly excited to be the new Bloodwise Research Director.

Medical research is an area I'm very passionate about. I've spent the last fifteen years working for research charities including Cancer Research UK, Breakthrough Breast Cancer and most recently as Director of Research for Diabetes UK, and I'm looking forward to bringing this experience to Bloodwise. To begin my tenure, I'd like to give you an update on some of the life-saving research we'll be working on this year.

To make sure our research has the biggest impact possible for blood cancer patients in 2016, we're continuing to focus on the key issues identified by our Patient Need research. Our latest research grants concentrate on three key areas:

The biggest blood cancer killers

Firstly we're targeting the five conditions which make up 70% of the total lives lost to blood cancer. We’ve just approved £3.6 million of new grants to develop innovative therapies for myeloma and acute myeloid leukaemia; we’re trialling new targeted drugs in chronic lymphocytic leukaemia patients; and we've granted £1.1 million to understand the biology and improve treatment of myelodysplastic syndromes.

Precursor conditions

Secondly, we’re focusing on precursor conditions. These are conditions that precede a blood cancer – such as myeloproliferative neoplasms (MPN) which can progress to acute myeloid leukaemia, and monoclonal gammopathy of unknown significance (MGUS), which almost all myeloma patients have first. We’ve just invested £254,000 to improve our understanding of these conditions, so that we can work to stop aggressive blood cancers before they even develop.

Early deaths

Thirdly, we’re tackling early deaths. For some blood cancers, a large proportion of deaths that occur,  do so within the first three months post diagnosis. We’ve renewed funding of our research network in York so we can understand more about why these early deaths occur in certain blood cancers, such as acute myeloid leukaemia and diffuse large B-cell lymphoma. We aim to develop interventions to tackle this serious issue to improve overall survival rates.

Trials Acceleration Programme

Alongside our new grants we're also continuing to support research through our Trials Acceleration Programme (TAP). TAP has been a great success so far – and we’re sure it will continue to go from strength to strength in the year ahead.

To date, 16 early stage trials have been taken into the programme – eight trials are open, four have been completed and over 650 patients have been recruited, which means they’ve had access to potentially life-saving new drugs.

We’ve also supported additional research projects to understand why some patients respond to a drug and some don’t, which will inform the design of further, larger trials and lead to better personalisation of treatment. Our new TAP website is now live, making it easier for researchers to collaborate and access the information they need and it’s easier for patients to find trials that they could benefit from. The future of the programme is looking very promising and ultimately that means more patients get access to the best treatments, so more lives are saved.

It’s great for me to arrive at Bloodwise with so much promising new research already funded – research that will make a massive difference to people living with blood cancer. I want to say a heartfelt thanks to our previous Director of Research, Chris Bunce, for all his hard work over the past three years. But I also want to say a big thanks to you, our Bloodwise supporters.

Without you none of this work could happen – and I’m looking forward to working with you all.

Alasdair

Comments

18.01.2016

Could you advise why you refer to MPN's as pre cancerous conditions when they were re classified as a cancer at least 5 years ago? It is disconcerting when a blood cancer charity doesn't appear to know this. 

18.01.2016

Pre cancererous?, in 2008 The World Health Organisation reclassified 'Myeloproliferative Disorder' to 'Myeloproliferative Neoplasm'. While I do agree we (MPN Warriors) do not have a malignant condition, but rather a Chronic one.

The Bloodwise logo. Bloodwise appears in black text against a white background
18.01.2016

Hi Gerard, thank you for pointing this out.

We agree that ‘pre-malignant’ is a misleading way of talking about these diseases (a condition that precedes a malignancy, but which may in fact be a malignancy itself).

As you’ll know, MPNs themselves are a broad range of diseases and classification can be a spectrum from fairly benign (with potential to become cancerous) to cancers in their own right. However, you’re correct and we should avoid confusion by calling these cancers/malignancies – and they are included in our 137 blood cancer types.

Usually we would refer to them as ’precursor conditions’ – but in this case we've accidentally referred to them as pre-malignant, and we have now changed the article to reflect this.

The real goal is to find more effective ways of diagnosing and treating these conditions, and to stop less aggressive diseases progressing into more aggressive diseases. Once again, thank you for getting in touch, and we hope our answer addresses your concern.

The Bloodwise logo. Bloodwise appears in black text against a white background
18.01.2016

Hi Geoff, thank you for getting in touch with this. Gerard (in the comment above) also raised a similar point. You can read our response to this above – and we hope you find it helpful.