Optimisation of the graft versus leukaemia effect to improve the outcome of haematopoietic stem cell transplantation
Stem cell (‘bone marrow’) transplantation (SCT) is a valuable treatment for many patients with leukaemia or lymphoma. Unfortunately, in many patients the procedure is not effective in curing disease and disease relapse is a major challenge for transplant teams. Our research is aiming at understanding how the immune system of the transplant donor can ‘attack’ the patient’s malignant cells, a process called graft-versus-leukaemia (GvL), so that we can increase its effect.
To do this we have three main strands to our work. The first is to study, exactly how the immune responses that underlie GvL develop in the first two weeks following transplantation. This challenging work will be very powerful for uncovering exactly which white cells from the donor are needed to control disease. Secondly we will use modern approaches to ‘vaccinate’ transplant donors or patients against molecules that can strengthen the GvL effect. Finally we are studying how the genes of transplant donors and patients can influence clinical outcome so that we can gain clues as to how GvL works.
The aim of our work is to find new ways to increase the strength of GvL so that we can modify transplant treatments to the needs of individual patients.