Oxford’s clinical researchers announce new 7 year collaboration with Janssen

Clinical researchers at Oxford University today announced a new 7-year collaboration with Janssen Research & Development, LLC to detect blood cancers sooner. The collaboration will recruit 1650 patients from across the UK at higher risk of developing certain types of blood cancers that arise from the immune system, such as chronic lymphocytic leukaemia (CLL) and multiple myeloma, to identify markers that could be used to predict who will go on to develop symptomatic disease.

Led by Professor Anna Schuh, researchers will study genetic and immune markers in blood and bone marrow, tracking patients over the lifetime of the programme to identify those who develop leukaemia or myeloma. About 10% of people aged 70+ will have a “pre-malignant” change in their immune system. Of these, only 1% per year will develop cancer that requires treatment. By studying these conditions in more detail, the research alliance aims to identify the specific make-up in the DNA and the immune system of people who go on to develop cancer, ultimately looking for new ways to find and treat blood cancer sooner, whilst identifying those who do not need follow up in specialist cancer centres.

Study leader Anna Schuh comments, “CLL and myeloma are the most common blood cancers found in adults, becoming more common with age. Many of those diagnosed remain well, initially managed by active surveillance. In the last few years, we have witnessed a transformation in treatments for these diseases with significant improvements in survival. However, CLL and myeloma remain essentially incurable as the cancer cells ultimately evade treatment. It is therefore time to consider treating these cancers earlier, when they have not had time to evolve. To do this effectively, we need to ensure we can distinguish patients who will develop symptomatic disease from those who will not, ideally using simple blood tests. This programme is about advancing such an approach.”

Speaking on the patient perspective, Leukaemia Care note “Many patients on active surveillance, or Watch and Wait, face significant uncertainty about when, or if, they will require treatment. This leads to around half of patients feeling more depressed or anxious following diagnosis, despite the fact that many will be relatively well. This new research has the potential to give greater clarity about disease progression, which could prevent large numbers of patients worrying unnecessarily”.

Find out more about this study here.