Research and Technology

26.05.20

UK study to examine Covid-19 impact on blood cancer patients

A new UK study is being launched by IMPACT to examine how patients receiving stem cell transplants for blood cancers and blood disorders react to severe Covid-19 infections.

The study will be led by Dr Giovanna Lucchini from Great Ormond Street Hospital. IMPACT, who have launched the study, are a partnership of organisations jointly-funded by Anthony Nolan, Leukaemia UK and NHS Blood and Transplant.

As part of the study, the team will monitor how adult and child recipients of stem cell transplants react to severe infections from the current coronavirus outbreak, profiling how their immune system responds. It is hoped they can also identify potential biomarkers which could be used to predict how the virus will affect a patient’s recovery and survival.

With a better understanding of how these high-risk patients react to Covid-19, researchers could use the data to provide the scientific basis for using targeted therapy to more effectively treat them. Current data suggests as many as 15% of Covid-19 infections lead to the patient needing to receive hospital treatment, including respiratory support.

However, patients taking immunosuppressant medication for conditions such as graft vs host disease (GvHD) could also suffer from additional complications which lead to longer recovery periods for patients.

READ MORE: Convalescent plasma transfusions take place for Covid-19 patients

The study aims to recruit between 20 and 60 stem cell transplant recipients in IMPACT centres across the UK. In order to be eligible, patients must have tested positive for Covid-19 and have symptoms which require oxygen treatment. Participants will need to have a blood sample taken within 72 hours of receiving oxygen, which will then be analysed for immunological biomarkers, including white blood cell numbers, and signalling molecules which control the immune system.

Patients will then be examined at 30 and 100 days following their Covid-19 diagnosis to assess the progress of their recovery.

IMPACT Medical Director Professor David Marks said: “This non-interventional study will recruit adults and children from UK IMPACT centres and may help us better understand the mechanisms of lung dysfunction in this patient group, and the factors that are associated with an adverse outcome.

“Transplant patients who are infected may react differently to the normal population; there is already some evidence that this infection is very serious after a transplant. Understanding the changes in cytokines may enable us to offer these patients targeted therapies with the goal of improving outcomes.”

NHS Blood and Transplant’s James Griffin, Consultant Haematologist at NHS Blood and Transplant and University Hospitals Bristol, added: “IMPACT has enabled the trial to be set up and opened in an incredibly short time and should result in quick recruitment.

“This is novel research led by an expert team at Great Ormond Street Hospital and will provide important data to help inform stem cell transplant doctors.”

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