11 Dec 2023

Research blog: Celebrating a fantastic year of blood cancer research

Thanks to our incredible supporters, this year we have continued to find and fund the very best innovative research projects and exceptional researchers.

In 2023, we announced funding for 8 new research projects and continued to fund 15 ongoing projects. From targeting pre-cancerous conditions to investigating new ways to treat the least survivable types of leukaemia, each of our research projects aims to help bring us closer to saving and improving more lives.

We wanted to take the opportunity to say thank you to each and every one of our supporters and share some of our research highlights from the year.

Our very first John Goldman Fellowship Follow-up Fund award

On Acute Myeloid Leukaemia (AML) World Awareness day in April, we announced our very first John Goldman Fellowship Follow-up Fund award – a further commitment to the UK’s future blood cancer research leaders.

Trailblazing University of Cambridge researcher, Dr Konstantinos Tzelepis, was awarded almost £250,000 for his pioneering study hoping to accelerate progress towards a new treatment for AML.

Dr Tzelepis’ work aims to exploit one of the disease’s potential weaknesses – a protein called CTU2 – to find innovative new ways to target and destroy leukaemia cells.

Predicting success of CML treatment

In May, we turned our attention to another type of leukaemia – chronic myeloid leukaemia (CML), announcing a project grant award to University of Glasgow researcher, Professor David Vetrie. His work seeks to find out if the unique differences between stem cells tell us how well CML treatment will work.

Professor Vetrie and his research team have already revealed the huge variety of differences between CML stem cells – vital cells that drive CML growth and development.

Collaboration is key to success

The theme of the summer was collaboration. Dr Louise Ainley, University College London, was awarded a Clinical Research Training Fellowship – which we jointly funded with the Medical Research Council. Dr Ainley is investigating which patients with smouldering myeloma – a pre-cancerous condition – will progress to myeloma, a type of blood cancer affecting almost 6000 people each year.

The treatment of infant leukaemia has not improved for decades. Professor Katrin Ottersbach at the University of Edinburgh is focusing on the urgent need to find new approaches to treating this rare but devastating disease. We are co-funding this important research hoping to improve outcomes for babies under 12 months, with Worldwide Cancer Research.

Four new prestigious John Goldman Fellowships

Survival for acute myeloid leukaemia (AML) is one of the lowest for any form of cancer, with an estimated survival of just 13.6% after 5 years. In October, we announced four innovative new research projects, each aimed at finding kinder, more effective treatments for AML.

Four aspiring blood cancer research leaders were awarded one of our prestigious John Goldman Fellowships – Dr Kevin Rattigan at the University of Glasgow, Dr Noelia Che at University College London, Dr Simona Valletta from the University of Manchester (joint funded with Rosetrees Trust) and Dr Sophie Kellaway from the University of Nottingham.

Dr Kevin Rattigan was selected as this year’s Olive Boles Innovation Award winner – an accolade given to one Leukaemia UK John Goldman Fellow each year, recognising an innovative, higher risk idea that could contribute significantly to our understanding of leukaemia.

Investing in blood cancer clinical trials

November saw an important event for future cutting-edge blood cancer clinical trial leaders. We provided funding for training run by the DIDACT Foundation – a charity dedicated to optimising the delivery of UK blood cancer trials. Equipping aspiring chief investigators with the knowledge and skills to excel in the world of trial development and management, the training ultimately aims to improve quality of life and survival through improved access to clinical trials and new treatments.

Sharing results with the international blood cancer community

The end of the year saw the American Society of Haematology’s Annual Meeting – a chance for the international haematology community to meet and share the latest advances and insights in the understanding and treatment of blood cancers and other blood disorders.

As part of this year’s event in San Diego, two of our funded researchers were selected to present their research to the esteemed international audience. Dr Konstantinos Tzelepis, University of Cambridge, presented new research on a potential new way to target blood cancer, hoping to accelerate progress towards kinder, more effective treatment.

Dr Eman Khatib-Massalha received an impressive Abstract Achievement Award to present her research investigating a possible new way to target myeloproliferative neoplasms (MPNs) – a rare type of blood cancer with no consistently reliable curative treatment, which can develop into acute myeloid leukaemia (AML).

Thank you for your continued support

It’s only through investment in world-class research that we will be able to accelerate the progress needed to save and improve more lives. And this is only possible with the help of our supporters, whose generosity and belief in our cause means that we can find better ways to diagnose, treat and care for those affected by leukaemia.

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