What is this research looking at? 

Multiple myeloma (MM) is a cancer which develops in the bone marrow. Despite some effective new therapies, MM remains difficult to treat and 5-year survival rates are poor. Novel treatment strategies are therefore critically needed. One possible approach -which has been successful for other cancers- is to use cells of the body’s immune system (called T cells) to kill the cancer.

In order to do this, we must first understand how the special environment of this particular cancer –the bone marrow- impacts T cells. For example, in MM, the bone marrow has altered levels of oxygen, nutrients and metabolic waste products, which may impair T cell metabolism. In recent years we have discovered that optimal immune cell metabolic fitness is crucial to their anti-cancer function.

My research assesses the metabolism of bone marrow T cells from patients across the spectrum of MM and compares this to healthy individuals. It also investigates precisely how other components of the bone marrow affect T cell metabolism. Based on these findings I want to design T cells that have the ideal metabolic fitness to survive in the bone marrow, and importantly kill cancer cells.

What could this mean for people with leukaemia? 

This fundamental research will provide key information to support the development of much-needed novel therapies for Multiple Myeloma in the future.

Being awarded this prestigious fellowship has critically supported me to establish myself as an independent researcher and provided me with the basis for, and opportunities to interact with other scientists and clinicians working to understand this disease.

Official title of project: Defining T cell Metabolic Fitness in the Myeloma Bone Marrow