University College London (UCL) is named as a Centre of Excellence by the national blood cancer charity Leukaemia & Lymphoma Research.
The charity has £8.7 million currently invested in research projects at the Centre. It has been recognised for its world-class research into all of the main blood cancers – leukaemia, lymphoma and myeloma.
Ground-breaking projects at UCL and the affiliated Royal Free Hospital in Hampstead include the development of treatments that engineer the patients’ own immune cells with the ability to target and kill leukaemia cells in their body.
This new treatment, called 'TCR gene therapy', is likely to be an important part of treatment in the future for patients who do not respond to standard chemotherapy. Two new trials using the method are due to start this year.
The unveiling of the Centre of Excellence, which is based at the UCL Cancer Institute, Huntley Street, is part of the charity’s plans to focus investment in leading research institutions across the UK.
Leukaemia & Lymphoma Research plans to unveil five more Centres of Excellence across London, with UCL and the Royal Free Hospital the first to be named. The institution has been selected for its innovative research and clinical expertise, which are achieving remarkable results for blood cancer patients.
Researchers at UCL work closely with doctors at the Royal Free Hospital to ensure that any breakthroughs in diagnosis and treatment benefit blood cancer patients across London as soon as possible.
Leukaemia & Lymphoma Research is currently funding six clinical trials for blood cancer patients at the Royal Free, a result of years of laboratory research into new treatments.
A clinical trial starting this year is helping non-Hodgkin lymphoma patients by using new techniques to improve the safety of bone marrow transplants, an important treatment option for the disease.
The trial is aiming to reduce the risk of ‘graft vs. host disease’, a common and dangerous side effect of transplants, in which donor cells recognise the body as ‘foreign’ and attack it.
Blood cancers are diagnosed in 28,500 children, teenagers and adults in the UK every year and long-term survival rates remain low for many types of the disease. Leukaemia & Lymphoma Research currently has 30 research projects running at UCL dedicated to improving diagnosis and treatments.
These projects range from laboratory research into how different blood cancers develop to full clinical trials testing new treatments on patients.
Dr David Grant, Scientific Director of Leukaemia & Lymphoma Research, said: “The key feature of our Centres of Excellence is the transfer of our world class research from the laboratory into the clinic for the benefit of patients with blood cancers.
"This is particularly impressive at UCL and Royal Free where we have six clinical trials all based on our investment in long term research programmes. This “bench to bedside” research is vital to meet our goal of routinely curing all blood cancers.”
Professor David Linch, Head of the Department Haematology at UCL, said: “The pace of progress in delivering new treatments for leukaemia, lymphoma and myeloma is very exciting and this is down to laboratory research and clinical trials.
"UCL attracts leading researchers from across the world and the concentration of this expertise is resulting in real benefits for patients. It’s vital that investment from charities such as Leukaemia & Lymphoma Research continues.”