Leukaemia & Lymphoma NI issue a further £250,000 in grants to Blood Cancer Research projects at Queens University Belfast for this year.

Friday, 6 May 2016

Almost 1100 people are diagnosed with a blood cancer each year; blood cancers include leukaemia, lymphoma and myeloma.  

Leukaemia & Lymphoma NI operate with the main objective of improving survival rates for these diseases by supporting the scientists and students researching blood cancers in Northern Ireland. In the blood cancer research group based at the Centre for Cancer Research and Cell Biology (CCRCB) at Queens University Belfast, there are a number of teams working on projects to identify, target and eliminate the abnormalities that cause blood cancer.

In celebration of the charities 50th anniversary in 2014 a Golden Anniversary package of £1.5 million pounds was invested over 3 years to enable the researchers and clinicians at Queens University Belfast to continue and expand their internationally recognised research.   As a result of the exciting developments in research, the charity has committed, so far in 2016, almost £ ¼ million additional funding to the research group at Queen’s University Belfast. 

The additional funding awarded this month includes a 12 month extension for the two research scientists to drive the research project forward and to create a new PhD Studentship starting in October 2016.

Mr Bill Pollock, Chairman of Leukaemia & Lymphoma NI, said that “It has been very encouraging to see the projects supported by the charity develop such promising prospects, our aim has always been to see the research we support make a difference to the lives of patients and we are making real progress.”   

Research Scientists Dr Laura Kettyle and Dr Kyle Matchett have both been exploring different avenues of repurposing drugs which are already on the market to treat illnesses such as heart disease or diabetes, to target cancerous blood cells. Repurposing drugs in other medical fields has shown to be successful in the past, for example Aspirin, originally developed for inflammation and pain relief it is also a very effective anti-clotting agent.

Using repurposed drugs has many advantages; they are easily accessible, cheaper and already clinically approved by the government. It means we also avoid the huge implications in creating a new drug which can take up to 20 years with the average cost thought to be around £2 billion.

One project involved screening 760 FDA approved drugs for their effects on acute leukaemia, screening is a long and arduous process testing multiple concentrations over different periods of time on different leukaemia cells.  Positive results were shown from 38 of the 760 drugs tested and they are being further investigated by our researchers. A drug of particular interest is currently used to treat patients with parasitic worm infections, more promising that it has been used on patients of all ages without harsh side effects as drug toxicity in cancer treatments is notoriously high.

Dr Kyle Matchett, Scientist with the charity said that “I’m very grateful that the charity is able to continue supporting this exciting project for another 12 months. There are currently no other studies testing this drug with blood cancers making this project particularly interesting.”

Dr Matchett will be speaking at a number of national and international meetings this year to present his findings. You can keep updated on all projects by looking at our research blog on our website; www.leukaemiaandlymphomani.org/blog