New research collaboration helps patients' own immune system fight cancer

Paul Moss, Professor of Haematology at the University of Birmingham

New West Midlands-based research into cancer treatment will support patients who are fighting cancer in their blood and/or lymph system – especially those from black and minority ethnic backgrounds.

One in 10 people with cancer have leukaemia or lymphoma. Immunotherapy innovations have delivered huge advances for treating cancer in one kind of white blood cell, the B cell – offering life-saving treatment with fewer toxic side-effects for many.

Now the University of Birmingham is collaborating with Sandwell and West Birmingham NHS Trust and its registered charity arm, Your Trust Charity, to develop immunotherapy for a second form of this cancer, affecting the T cell.

This is funded by generous philanthropic donations from local community organisations, including the Michael Marsh Charitable Trust, and a charitable bequest from former patients at the NHS Trust whose families were directly affected by leukaemia.

As T cell leukaemia/lymphoma particularly affects people of black and minority ethnic origin, the new research programme CAR T2 will work with patients in Sandwell and West Birmingham. This community includes the largest percentage of people from a black and minority ethnic background of any catchment area in England: over two thirds of people (68%).

Paul Moss, Professor of Haematology at the University of Birmingham, said: “I believe we really are the first generation that has it in their ability, their capacity, to control this disease. A key focus of my laboratory is investigating how the immune system can control cancer. We’re particularly strong in taking research from the bench right through to clinical trials and the patients.”

Dr Farooq Wandroo, of the Sandwell and West Birmingham NHS Trust, said: “We are seeking to retarget patients own T cells, white blood cells that help make up the immune system, against their own T cell tumour. Our aim is to develop a way to use gene therapy to arm a patients T cells with the power to fight their tumour.”

Mr Lee Nuttall, of The Michael Marsh Charitable Trust, said: “The trustees are proud to make a philanthropic gift to support the launch of this important, local blood cancer research partnership. We feel it is vital to support the urgent need to develop more effective treatments for local patients and families affected. We hope that our gift will also unlock further funding in this important area of research.”

Later phases of the research may be delivered through a patient trial at the new Midland Metropolitan Hospital which is currently under construction and will open in 2022.

Further information about this project and how people can help is available by emailing giving@contacts.bham.ac.uk

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