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Why Myeloma UK is a partner of the Blood Cancer UK Vaccine Research Collaborative

COVID-19 has had a huge impact on the way myeloma patients live their lives and how their cancer is treated.

The vaccine programme is an incredibly important part of getting ahead of the virus and we can see evidence emerging that these vaccines are lowering the risk of death from COVID-19 in the general population. What we still don’t know enough about is the extent to which myeloma and other blood cancer patients have responded to their vaccinations, and what their levels of ongoing protection and risk are.

This is important because, at the moment, policy decisions are being made without data specific to myeloma patients. This includes decisions like how long a gap there should be between vaccine doses for myeloma patients; which vaccine gives the best response in myeloma patients; the impact of myeloma treatment on vaccine choice or dosing schedule; and the impact of the vaccine on the success of stem-cell transplant and, vice versa, the impact of stem-cell transplant on the efficacy of the vaccine.

And the lack of data relevant to myeloma patients affects decision making more widely as well. At the moment, we don’t understand how much protection the wider vaccination of the general public is protecting myeloma patients, and that means that decisions on ending shielding and reopening society more widely are being made without patients, clinicians and organisations like Myeloma UK understanding what ongoing risk actually looks like.

The Blood Cancer UK Vaccine Research Collaborative is an expert panel from across the blood cancer community that has come together to share knowledge about the effects of the vaccine on people with blood cancer, to look closely at where the gaps in research are, and to fund work that will fill those gaps and find answers. By working together, we can share knowledge more efficiently and make decisions on further research so that we have more answers as quickly as possible.

This will enable us to make specific evidence-based policy asks around vaccination policy and ongoing treatment and care: ensuring that myeloma patients get the best care within our current knowledge and can be more confident about making decisions about their day to day lives.

"At the moment, important decisions on vaccinations, shielding, and re-opening society are being made without enough data on how protected myeloma and other blood cancer patients are. Myeloma UK is delighted to be working with Blood Cancer UK and the British Society of Haematologists to address that information gap and make sure that patients’ needs are recognised and responded to."

Laura Kerby, Myeloma UK CEO

How Myeloma UK is partnering through expertise

Myeloma UK Director of Research, Sarah McDonald, is bringing her experience and expertise in collaborative research and partnership programmes to the Collaborative to help deliver the answers that patients need.

Sarah is the strategic lead and co-designer of the research programme: an ambitious overarching framework constructed to meet the needs of patients, the aims of the Blood Cancer UK Vaccine Research Collaborative and be fully compliant within the UK Ethics Framework.

Her work has enabled the group to establish a funding panel which will make effective, rapid decisions to award funding and research started as quickly as possible. She has also shaped and established the reporting framework for the group, so that results can be pooled for wider analysis. This reporting will feed into analysis to identify wider trends, and Sarah has designed the funding call to get that work started as soon as the data is ready.

Sarah will be updating the myeloma community with new announcements as this important work progresses. She will also be explaining what the validated results from the research studies mean for myeloma patients and their families.

How Myeloma UK is partnering through funding

Myeloma UK has contributed funding to directly support focused myeloma studies and the myeloma patient cohort in other studies.

An example of the latter is the work being done by Professor Gordon Cook as part of the OCTAVE study. This work looks specifically at T cell and antibody response in people with blood cancer and has an identified myeloma arm of the study.

We expect further studies to be funded and, through, Sarah McDonald’s updates, we’ll keep you updated with new announcements and with the validated results which we expect to come out in the coming months.

All of the results of the studies will be brought together and analysed, not only to give a clinical interpretation on vaccination testing, but also to enable examination of larger data – with a view to identifying emerging trends around factors such as age or treatment. This data will enable us to make evidence-based policy asks to protect myeloma patients.

Read more about the full range of studies being funded.