08:03pm Wednesday 16 October 2019

Research into post bone marrow transplant complications

The grant, awarded by leading blood cancer charity Bloodwise, will be used to research ways to limit graft versus host disease (GVHD) – a process where the donor’s immune cells attack the transplant recipient’s body. This can affect vital organs and is potentially life-threatening. 

For many blood cancer patients, a ‘stem cell’ or ‘bone marrow’ transplant, using donated stem cells from another person – who must be a tissue match – is the only curative option. Finding a match can take a considerable length of time, and the success of stem cell transplants is limited by GVHD.   

Professor Matthew Collin, Dr Amy Publicover and Dr Lucy Walker, who are based at the Institute of Cellular Medicine at Newcastle University, will investigate a class of white blood cells, known as innate lymphoid cells (ILCs). These regulate immune responses in tissues, by producing cell signalling molecules called cytokines. Cytokines help communication between cells in immune responses, and stimulate the movement of cells towards the site of infection or inflammation. 

The researchers will measure ILCs in stem cell donor tissue, and in the blood and tissues of transplant patients. Ultimately, the project aims to provide strong evidence that a specific cytokine, IL-22, can be used for treating patients who develop GVHD.

Professor Matthew Collin said: “The death rate for GVHD patients who do not respond to steroids is very high. No study has yet examined ILCs in human tissues affected by GVHD and we are very excited to see what the results will show.”

Dr Matt Kaiser, Head of Research at Bloodwise, said: “We have worryingly limited treatment options for GVHD. The project at Newcastle University will really further our understanding of why some transplants lead to these serious complications. If shown that IL-22 can reduce GVHD and this effect can be transferred to the real world, this could be life-altering for many blood cancer patients who have to undergo transplants using donated stem cells.” 

Last month, Bloodwise launched the UK’s biggest blood cancer awareness campaign. Nearly 3,000 billboards appeared across the UK in response to a crisis in awareness of the group of diseases, which includes leukaemia, lymphoma and myeloma.

Bloodwise is the new name of the UK blood cancer charity Leukaemia & Lymphoma Research, which was founded in 1960. The new name was chosen to reflect the charity’s work for patients with all blood cancers, and unites everything being done to beat them, from world leading research and thought leadership to patient support services.

Press release courtesy of Bloodwise


Key Facts:

  • Newcastle University is a Russell Group University
  • Ranked in the top 1% of universities in the world (QS World University Rankings 2014)
  • Ranked 16th in the UK for global research power (REF 2014)
  • Ranked 10th overall in the UK and 3rd for quality of staff/lecturers in the Times Higher Education Student Experience Survey 2015
  • Winner: Outstanding Leadership and Management Team and Outstanding Procurement Team, Times Higher Leadership and Management Awards 2015
  • Amongst our peers Newcastle is:
    • Joint 6th in the UK for student satisfaction
    • Ranked 1st in the UK for Computing Science research impact, 3rd in the UK for Civil Engineering research power and 11th in the UK for Mathematical Sciences research (REF 2014)
    • Ranked 8th in the UK for Medical and Life Sciences research quality (REF 2014)
    • Ranked 3rd in the UK for English, and in the top 12 for Geography, Architecture and Planning, and Cultural and Media Studies research quality (REF 2014)
    • Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) top 20 strategic partner
  • 94% of our students are in a job or further training within six months of graduating
  • We have a world-class reputation for research excellence and are spearheading three major societal challenges that have a significant impact on global society. These themes are: Ageing, Sustainability, and Social Renewal
  • Newcastle University is the first UK university to establish a fully owned international branch campus for medicine at its NUMed Campus in Malaysia which opened in 2011
  • 90% Satisfaction level from our international students (ISB 2014)
  • Newcastle University Business School is one of 21 Triple Accredited Business Schools in the UK

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