Liz Burtally
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Bloodwise researchers present exciting new research at major blood cancer event

Liz Burtally
Posted by
15 Dec 2017

The American Society of Hematology (ASH) annual meeting, one of the biggest events in the blood cancer diary, was held 9-12 December 2017. Some of our Bloodwise funded researchers presented some exciting results

People at a conference

Over 20,000 experts gathered at The American Society of Hematology (ASH) annual meeting on 9-12 December 2017 to discuss how new research and clinical experience can be transformed into improving the outlook for people with blood cancer and other disorders.

Some of our Bloodwise funded researchers were there, presenting some exciting results from our clinical trials in CLL, AML and MPN. Our researchers also talked about how they are working to improve the success of stem cell transplants, finding new ways to predict the outlook of CLL, and how a modified measles virus could help treat ALL. We also heard about why babies with Down syndrome are more likely to develop AML, what biological changes take place in DLBCL at the point of relapse and testing new treatments for this disease.

Improving the treatment and outcomes of people living with blood cancer

Some promising early results from one of our Trials Acceleration Programme (TAP) called CLARITY was presented by Professor Peter Hillmen from St James’ Hospital in Leeds. The trial has shown that a combination of two targeted drugs – venetoclax and ibrutinib – could be a highly effective way to treat people with CLL who have relapsed or not responded to other treatments. Doctors say that response rates after six months of treatment have exceeded what they expected to see after a year of treatment. Read more about ibrutinib or learn more about our CLARITY trial.

Image credit: Wellcome images

Professor Charlie Craddock from the University of Birmingham presented findings from two of our TAP trials – VIOLA and Romaza – that are looking for new ways to treat AML. Viola found that using chemotherapy combined with a biologic drug called lenalidomide might help people with AML who have relapsed after a stem cell transplant. And ROMAZA found that adding a new targeted drug called romidepsin to chemotherapy treatment was well tolerated and effective in people with AML who are unable to undergo intensive chemotherapy. Read more about the ROMAZA trial.

Professor Mark Drummond from The University of Glasgow discussed results from another TAP trial called PHAZAR, which is looking at a treatment for people with advanced MPN. He found that combining a drug called ruxolitinib with chemotherapy in is showing promise as a treatment option. Find out more about the PHAZAR trial.

Predicting who will do well on CLL treatment

Professor Jonathon Strefford from the University of Southampton discussed his findings on how chemical markers on a person’s DNA can predict how well people with CLL will respond to treatment, which may help guide treatment decisions. We will reporting more results on this study soon, so watch this space! Read more about our CLL research.

Blood cancer in early life

Dr Rosanna Jackson from Newcastle University presented new findings from the UKALL2011 - the childhood leukaemia trial, which is also funded by Children with Cancer. Doctors adjusted the dosing of steroids to see if they could reduce the toxicity associated with long term treatment, but found this didn’t make a difference. But they saw that the steroid worked at different rates between children despite what steroid dosing schedule, which could be influencing how well the drug works and what side effects it displays. Find out more about the UKALL2011 trial.

Professor Irene Roberts from the University of Oxford talked about the links between Down syndrome and AML. The team have been looking at the gene changes during the course of AML in babies with Down syndrome, and have now mapped out a unique model of blood cancer development in early childhood. This is really exciting research, which was also supported by Children with Cancer, and will influence how we treat and manage leukaemia in childhood. We should be hearing the full details of this research, and its impact, when the team publish a series of papers next year. Read more about our AML research.

Image credit: NCI, licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0) license

Boosting the success of stem cell transplants

Dr Ram Malladi presented his and Professor Paul Moss’ research from the University of Birmingham. They want to enhance the therapeutic effects of stem cell transplants, and have designed a vaccine that could be given to donors to boost specific immune cells that help fight leukaemia cells. Read more about Professor Moss’ research.

Turning the measles virus into a leukaemia killer

Dr Katherine Bailey, from the UCL Cancer Institute, talked about her work on genetically engineering a measles vaccine so it specifically attacks leukaemia cells, leaving healthy cells untouched. Early laboratory findings show that this could be a potential new therapy for ALL. Find out more about Dr Bailey’s research.

Personalising treatment for people with lymphoma

Led by Professor Johnson based at the University of Southampton, The Precision Medicine for Aggressive Lymphomas (PMAL) Research Group is identifying the genetic mutations that are driving lymphoma, so they can match the most effective treatment to the individual person.

Image credit: Nephron under a Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0) license

They found that distinct biological changes take place in DLBCL at the point of relapse. This included an increase in mTOR signalling (a biochemical pathway in the cell which regulates how it produces energy and grows), a reduction in T cells that can recognise cancer cells, and a loss of mutations that could be targeted by drugs. Researchers also mapped out gene expression patterns – when genes are switched on or off and to what extent – using DLBCL samples from a clinical trial. They were able to link back the gene activity with what mutations were present in DLBCL, and how these people responded to treatment. Early results in the laboratory also show that drugs used to treat various non-Hodgkin lymphomas may also be useful in DLBCL. But the effect varies depending on the different subtypes of DLBCL, and researchers continue to find the optimal treatments for these subgroups. Read more about Peter Johnson’s research.

Other Bloodwise funded research

A new type of cutting edge treatment called ‘CAR-T therapy’ has been making waves in blood cancer research this year. This is where a person’s T-cells is re-educated to attack cancer cells. Although a type of CAR-T therapy called CART19 has shown promise in treating blood cancers that affect B cells, such as DLBCL, only about half of the people benefit.

Dr Antonia Rotolo from Imperial College, London is looking at ways to improve the effects of CAR-T therapy by harnessing iNKT cells, which although rare, they are an extremely powerful type of T cell that fight cancer cells. Early laboratory work looks promising, and could help treat other B cell cancers, such as mantle cell lymphoma (MCL), marginal zone lymphoma (MZL) and CLL. Find out more about this research.

Other ASH hot topics

Other research that’s not funded by Bloodwise but caused a stir included clinical trials assessing new treatments for cutaneous T-cell lymphoma (CTCL, a rare form of non-Hodgkin lymphoma), advanced stage Hodgkin lymphoma, and CLL.

There were also results from lots of trials investigating CAR-T therapies, which included trials in lymphoma and multiple myeloma that has returned, or is hard to treat.

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