Clinical trials are an important part of the fight against blood cancer. They form a vital step in testing potentially life-saving new and improved treatments for patients. Bloodwise has been investing in clinical trials for over a decade now and this support has directly facilitated a range of important advancements in the development of new treatment approaches for blood cancer.
One part of our work in clinical research is our pioneering Trials Acceleration Programme (TAP), which we launched in 2011 to accelerate the assessment of promising new blood cancer treatments by speeding up clinical trials.. These types of trials usually focus on testing how safe a treatment or drug is, what side effects might occur, what the best dose and schedule is, whether there are signs it can work against the disease and which patients might benefit most.
TAP consists of a specialised hub in Birmingham and 13 networked recruitment centres in leading research hospitals around the UK. The hub houses experts in the design and set up of trials and, when ready to go, the centres provide a ready-made network to recruit patients. So far, 18 trials have been approved in the network, with 13 open, 4 completed and 1 in setup. To date the programme has helped over 820 patient’s get on to blood cancer clinical trials. Bloodwise has now committed over £11 million to the programme which is being used by researchers to investigate a wide range of blood cancers, including chronic lymphocytic leukaemia (CLL), chronic myeloid leukaemia (CML), acute myeloid leukaemia (AML), myelodysplastic syndromes (MDS), myeloma and Hodgkin lymphoma.
One recent TAP study to open is a drug trial for CLL patient, and is an extension of the popular ibrutinib IciCLLe trial. Ibrutinib is a type of targeted therapy that halts cancer cell growth by blocking signals that the leukaemia cells use to divide and grow. Results from early trials with ibrutinib have shown promising results in treating patients with CLL, but few patients achieve complete, ongoing remission. So researchers want to now test it in combination with another targeted drug, called obinutuzumab (OH bi nue TOOZ ue mab). This is a type of therapy called a monoclonal antibody, and works by homing in on a certain protein on the surface of leukaemia cells. Researchers think that combining the two drugs together may have a greater effect on the leukaemia cells and close of any escape routes that allow them to grow back again.. This extension study is now open and recruiting well across a number of TAP hospitals.
Myeloproliferative neoplasms (MPNs) are blood cancers which affect normal production of blood cells from the bone marrow. They are caused by faults in genes in blood stem cells. MPNs carry a risk of developing to acute leukaemia and currently there is no effective cure, apart from a bone marrow transplant which is not possible for many patients. Recent work in mice has suggested that tamoxifen, a drug traditionally used in the treatment of breast cancer, may block the growth of these abnormal cells. It does this by mimicking oestrogen (a female sex hormone) which has a role in the survival and production of new stem cells that give rise to blood cancers. TAMARIN is a new TAP trial assessing whether tamoxifen can help reduce the number of abnormal cells. This is an interesting example of the potential to ‘repurpose’ a drug used in one disease for the treatment of another, which means if it works it can often be quickly brought into routine use.
Work to be done
TAP recently underwent a review of its clinical centres. This independent assessment will help Bloodwise to select 13 excellent clinical sites to support from 2017 onwards. In total, the network will represent a catchment area of nearly 22 million people. Bloodwise will fund research staff and nurses in these hospitals to help run trials and make sure patients get the best research care possible. We’ll keep you updated on our website when we have more news about the centres.
If you have any specific questions please get in touch with the Bloodwise TAP Manager - Emil Kazounis
You can find out more about our exciting research here
Find out more about Blood Cancer Awareness Month and our 3&5 campaign here