Matt Kaiser
Posted by
Matt Kaiser

Research round-up: conference special

Matt Kaiser
Posted by
Matt Kaiser
27 Jun 2014

Every year, blood cancer researchers and doctors from around the world meet up at a conference organised by the European Hematology Association.

This year the EHA conference was held in Milan and featured a variety of talks, posters, education sessions and working groups for the community to share breaking research findings and advances in clinical practice.

This is a great way for researchers to keep abreast of the latest insights and techniques, to meet new people and form exciting collaborations, and to debate how best to get this innovation to patients. It also allows up-and-coming junior researchers to get their name known and gain experience in presenting their work – a valuable skill needed for a future career in research.

It goes to the heart of one of the ways we will achieve our mission of beating blood cancer – by building communities & sharing understanding.

The online cancer communication and education channel, ecancer, filmed a series of interviews with leading blood cancer scientists and clinicians at this year’s EHA meeting.

Here are some highlights.


Leukaemia & Lymphoma Research scientist Prof Christine Harrison, based at Newcastle University, talks about the “Philadelphia chromosome” and the role it plays in triggering chronic myeloid leukaemia. Philadelphia chromosome was the first genetic abnormality discovered in a cancer, back in 1960, and laid the foundations for the eventual development of the pioneering drug, imatinib, nearly 40 years later.

Prof Peter Hillmen of the University of Leeds, who runs some Leukaemia & Lymphoma Research-supported clinical trials, presented the latest results from a large international trial in chronic lymphocytic leukaemia. The study, which is testing a new targeted treatment called ibrutinib, is reporting impressive advancements in patient survival compared to current standard therapy. It is almost certain to change clinical practice.

Find out more about the genetics of CLL and how this understanding has informed the development and refinement of new drugs and diagnostics, in these interviews with Dr Elías Campo of the University of Barcelona and Prof Robin Foà of Sapienza University of Rome. Peter also talks with Prof John Gribben (Queen Mary University London) and Prof Stephen Mulligan (Royal North Shore Hospital, Sydney) more generally about the advances that have been made in CLL.


Prof Simon Rule, a Leukaemia & Lymphoma Research clinician scientist at Derriford Hospital, Plymouth and Prof Franco Cavalli of the Oncology Institute of Southern Switzerland, discuss new promising treatments and novel ways to combine treatments to improve outcomes for patients with mantle cell lymphoma, a type of non-Hodgkin lymphoma. Simon talks about how ibrutinib can also benefit patients with this disease.


Prof Philippe Moreau (University Hospital of Salamanca) and Prof Marivi Mateos (Centre Hospitalier Universitaire de Nantes), and Prof Sonja Zweegman (VU University Medical Center, Amsterdam) and Prof Matti Aapro (Multidisciplinary Oncology Institute, Switzerland) discuss advancements in multiple myeloma therapy, particularly in elderly patients. The view seems to be that the landscape for myeloma treatment is changing, and we may soon be able to abandon old drugs in favour of new treatments and treatment combinations.

But there are many factors to consider – Prof Keith Stewart at the Mayo Clinic in USA explains his work comparing the use of lenalidomide against thalidomide in elderly patients with the disease. The study found little difference between the two in terms of disease progression and survival. But, lenalidomide gave fewer side effects and higher quality of life; thalidomide, on ther other hand, was more cost-effective.

And much more...

There are also experts talking about polycythaemia vera, acute promyelocytic leukaemia, acute myeloid leukaemia and acute lymphoblastic leukaemia. And there’s a very interesting interview about a very hot topic at the moment – how scientists are devising ways to educate a person’s own immune system to recognise and kill their cancer.

Finally, there are more general discussions on the important subjects of tackling inequality in access to cancer care and information, and making sure that innovative personalised treatments can be accessible to all patients across Europe.




Main image: Courtesy of EMSL/Flickr, CC BY-NC-SA 2.0




Thanks so much for posting this blog, Matt. It's always great to read (and hear) more about what the researchers are up to. Here's hoping that this year's conference helps pave the way to some real advances in treatment in the near future for blood cancer patients.

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