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Blood Cancer Network Ireland

Ms Jess Walsh, Clinical Trial Network Co-ordinator, Blood Cancer Network Ireland, provides an overview of the Network’s efforts in science and research into blood cancers

The Blood Cancer Network Ireland (BCNI) is a Collaborative Cancer Research Initiative supported by Science Foundation Ireland and the Irish Cancer Society, led by Director Prof Michael O’Dwyer.  The aim of the BCNI is to provide Irish patients with access to novel cancer treatments through the provision of early phase clinical trials.

The BCNI also has a Blood Cancer Biobank, which stores blood and bone marrow samples anonymously for use in future research, to understand the mechanisms of blood cancers, and provide insight for the development of new treatments. The aim is to collect 300 samples over a five-year period, contributing an invaluable wealth of new data to help develop effective treatments for blood cancer patients of the future. For more information about the biobank, please visit www.bloodcancers.ie/bloodcancers/bloodcancerbiobank/.

The BCNI also has a Blood Cancer Registry, used to collect data about blood cancer patients, which allows monitoring of trends in this specific patient group. It feeds into the National Cancer Registry Ireland, allowing national trends in cancer to be analysed. All information is collected and stored with strict confidentiality.

Trials

Recently, great progress has been made in the development of all areas within the BCNI, no more so than in the early-phase clinical trials division of the network. The BCNI focuses on delivering early-phase clinical trials to patients across Ireland, utilising its strategic geographical clinical centres in Galway, Cork and Dublin. They also accept referrals from anywhere in the country in order to ensure all Irish blood cancer patients are given the opportunity to avail of these novel treatments. 

Of particular interest is the ongoing success of the CyBorD-DARA clinical trial, which is an investigator-initiated study led by Prof O’Dwyer, NUIG, in collaboration with Cancer Trials Ireland. This study is investigating whether the addition of the monoclonal antibody daratumumab (DARA) to the chemotherapy regimens cyclophosphamide, bortezomib and dexamethasone (CyBorD) in newly-diagnosed multiple myeloma patients is more efficacious than the current standard of care regimens for this disease, as well as determining the maximum tolerated dose of the drugs used in this combination. Opened in three of the five clinical sites in the BCNI (Galway, Cork and Dublin), the teams successfully recruited to their targets and overall, the results are encouraging. The promising results have been presented at the last two annual meetings of the American Society of Haematology, concluding that this regimen is a well-tolerated, highly-active therapy for this group of patients. The results of this study have been used to inform other clinical trials at a European level.

New trials

This year promises to be an exciting one for the clinical trials division of the BCNI, with a plan to open at least three new clinical trials in the near future. These trials will be across different blood cancers, as well as covering different stages of the diseases. One trial is a phase 2 study for the treatment of patients with relapsed non-Hodgkin lymphoma, using a new type of radioimmunotherapy. Recruitment for this trial should be open in Galway shortly, and aims to recruit over 120 patients across Europe.

Another new trial coming to the BCNI is for patients with relapsed/refractory acute myeloid leukaemia. This is a phase 3, randomised, double-blind clinical trial, testing standard chemotherapy vs standard chemotherapy plus the addition of the study drug. This trial will open in Galway initially, with the potential of moving to other Irish BCNI sites as recruitment continues. The aim is to recruit over 350 patients across Europe and the US.

There will also be a new clinical trial for the up-front treatment of patients with newly-diagnosed multiple myeloma. This will be a phase 2, randomised, controlled trial investigating a new chemotherapy regimen for transplant-eligible patients. This trial aims to recruit up to 400 patients across Europe and will open in Ireland imminently, being co-ordinated by Cancer Trials Ireland.

There are inclusion/exclusion criteria for patients to be entered into any clinical trial, but more information will be published on the BCNI website and www.clinicaltrials.gov. The BCNI continues to work with industry partners and investigators to source new clinical trials in order to benefit Irish blood cancer patients.

Annual meeting

On 24 May this year, the BCNI will hold its annual symposium in University Hospital Cork. ‘Blood Cancer: Advances in Therapeutic Strategies and Enhanced Patient Registration to Improve Outcomes’ offers a unique opportunity for researchers and clinicians in the field to hear about the latest research and hottest topics in blood cancer research from international experts and to present their own work in this area.

Full information on the meeting programme is available on the BCNI website, www.bloodcancers.ie.

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