Junior Research Fellow of the Kay Kendall Leukaemia Fund

Margaret Duffy (Seymour group) has recently become a Junior Research Fellow of the Kay Kendall Leukaemia Fund.

Margaret joined Oncology as a postdoc in January 2015 and she was encouraged to apply for a Kay Kendall Junior Research Fellowship by Professor Seymour as there are only a few such opportunities for researchers at this early stage of their career available.  The objective of the Kay Kendall Leukaemia Fund Junior Research Fellowship programme is to support outstanding individuals wanting to pursue research into haematological malignancies

Multiple myeloma is the second most common haematological cancer. Despite recent advances in therapeutic strategies patient relapse is frequent and treatment resistance develops. Novel agents with alternative mechanisms of action are required to improve clinical outcomes and survival. Through this KKLF fellowship Margaret proposes to develop a new approach for the targeted treatment of multiple myeloma, in the form of oncolytic adenoviruses.

Oncolytic virotherapy has emerged as a promising means of combating cancer. By availing of disrupted cellular processes, oncolytic viruses infect, replicate in and kill tumour cells with exquisite selectivity. Through this pro-inflammatory process, tumour associated antigens are released, and the host’s anti-tumour immune response is induced. The replicated viruses then go on to infect the next cancer cells, creating a potent and self-amplifying therapy, and a powerful cancer vaccine effect.

This KKLF project aims to exploit the defects in myeloma cells to generate an oncolytic adenovirus capable of specifically replicating in and lysing these cancer cells. A combination of rare adenoviral types will be employed and ex vivo testing on myeloma patient samples will be critical to ensuring clinical efficacy. Due to the disseminated pathology of this cancer, the development of blood-stable viruses that can be given intravenously will also be a key component of the project. Certain types of adenoviruses show very promising results in clinical trials against solid cancers and good stability in human blood, making them compelling agents for this work. The ultimate goal of this project being to create a powerful and targeted therapeutic for the systemic treatment of multiple myeloma.

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