GOSH Charity gives cash boost to Newcastle researchers

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A new study that could pave the way for new treatments for certain types of childhood leukaemia has been given a £250,000 cash boost thanks to Great Ormond Street Hospital Children’s Charity’s (GOSH Charity) National Call – the largest UK-wide regular funding scheme dedicated to rare and complex paediatric disease research.

A new study that could pave the way for new treatments for certain types of childhood leukaemia has been given a £250,000 cash boost thanks to Great Ormond Street Hospital Children’s Charity’s (GOSH Charity) National Call – the largest UK-wide regular funding scheme dedicated to rare and complex paediatric disease research.

The study, based at the University of Newcastle, will be looking at how cancer cells become resistant to a drug often used to treat acute lymphoblastic leukaemia (ALL), a type of blood cancer which affects around 400 children every year in the UK. Although survival rates are generally high, options become increasingly more limited for children who develop drug resistance to steroid hormones, which form a key part of treatment to help kill the cancer cells.

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The research, which could ultimately lead to effective new treatments that could help improve survival for children with drug-resistant ALL, is being led by Dr Frederik van Delft alongside his wider team at the University of Newcastle.

Left to right: Dr Alistair Poll (Research Associate), Dr Frederik van Delft (PI), Mr Mankaran SinghLeft to right: Dr Alistair Poll (Research Associate), Dr Frederik van Delft (PI), Mr Mankaran Singh
Left to right: Dr Alistair Poll (Research Associate), Dr Frederik van Delft (PI), Mr Mankaran Singh

Dr van Delft’s three-year study will first look into why some children with leukaemia become resistant to steroid hormones, before exploring a way to overcome this and reverse the acquired resistance. It is hoped that the study will prove that using a combination of these steroid hormones with a growth blocker, can reactivate drug sensitivity and give children a chance to achieve remission. This is turn will allow children to progress to more curative cancer treatment, such as a bone marrow transplant.

While individual growth blocker drugs have already been studied, Dr van Delft hopes to broaden this out to show that a whole range of growth blockers are effective in overcoming drug resistance when used in combination with steroids, expanding the treatment options for children with relapsed leukaemia. In the future, there could also be potential for this combination treatment to be introduced for other types of cancer that affect children and young people, including Burkitt’s lymphoma and Hodgkin’s lymphoma, where patients also require steroids as part of their treatment.

Dr van Delft’s research is one of twelve projects which will this year benefit from £2.8million worth of funding awarded through GOSH Charity’s National Call – the most ever awarded via the scheme, due to the high standard of applications for this round of funding. The successful applicants, who are based at institutions across the UK, will investigate some of the rarest and most difficult to treat childhood diseases, with a view of unlocking breakthroughs in child medicine.

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Dr Frederik van Delft, Clinical Senior Lecturer and Honorary Consultant, said:“I am delighted that my study has been selected as one of the 12 projects to benefit from the latest round of funding from GOSH Charity’s National Call. I do this research because I see children in hospital that we cannot help which, when we think about all the advances that have been made over the last few decades in cancer care as a whole, is hard to accept.

“I hope that this study will help us to understand why some leukaemias develop drug resistance so we can help children in the future who stop responding to their treatment. We need to improve options for those children to allow them to get to the next stage of potentially curative treatment, something that I am confident this study will help enable.”

Dr Aoife Regan, Director of Impact and Charitable Programmes at GOSH Charity, said:We are absolutely delighted to be awarding £2.8m to 12 paediatric research projects from across the UK after receiving 80 applications for this year’s National Call.

“As the largest charitable funder of medical research dedicated to paediatrics in the UK, GOSH Charity is committed to supporting projects on a national scale to help shape the future of children’s healthcare. The National Call is a brilliant example of how money raised for the charity can have a profound impact for patients and families at GOSH and right across the UK.”

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