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Collaborative research and supporter funding key to finding a cure for myeloma

Fundraising news, Research news // 6th February 2019

Finding answers to discover a cure for myeloma is one of our main objectives at Myeloma UK. We are committed to achieving this with the help of supporters such as Alison Goldberg and Sara Phillips, who are trustees of The Joyce and Norman Freed Charitable Trust, which they established in 2016 to help fund projects that further the advancement of health and well-being within the UK.

One such project that their Trust is funding through Myeloma UK is with the Structural Genomics Consortium (SGC) in Oxford. The SGC carries out research into new areas of human biology to enable the discovery of new drugs or improved treatment options. The SGC helps to accelerate research towards new treatments by making all of its research outputs freely available to a collaborative network of scientists from universities and pharmaceutical companies. This means other researchers can use the data and build on the findings. Together, this network of academic and industry scientists drives new scientific and drug discoveries.

The Myeloma UK funded project at the SGC, generously supported by The Joyce and Norman Freed Charitable Trust, is led by Dr Kilian Huber.  The aim is to advance our understanding of how certain established and experimental anti-myeloma drugs actually work at the molecular level and kill myeloma cells. This knowledge could allow researchers to discover improved drugs and understand why some patients don’t respond at all to current ones.  The project uses the world-class expertise of Dr Huber and his colleagues in a set of techniques called “chemoproteomics”.  Analogous to fishing, the SGC team are identifying which specific proteins they can ‘catch’ when using the myeloma drugs as ‘bait’. This chemoproteomics project is generating very large amounts of data which need proper analysis and curation to inform and support the ongoing laboratory research. In addition, a key output of this research project will be an open-access database which will be made freely available. Dr Felix Feyertag, The Joyce and Norman Freed Charitable Trust funded bioinformatician will create this database as a resource to support myeloma research worldwide.

Alison and Sara from the Joyce and Norman Freed Charitable Trust recently visited the SGC Oxford laboratories, with Myeloma UK representatives Director of Research Dr Simon Ridley and Director of Income Generation Claire Houghton, to meet the SGC team and to hear about the project and its progress. The project is going well, with chemoproteomics experiments revealing candidate proteins which ‘stick to’ the myeloma drugs tested. Dr Feyertag is making sense of the large volumes of data coming from these experiments which is informing the following rounds of validation experiments.

Alison Goldberg said: “Having supported Myeloma UK over many years, my sister Sara and I have been impressed with the impact Myeloma UK and its work has had on myeloma patients.  We wanted to visit the SGC and to understand the role they play.  We were so impressed with the facilities at the SGC as well as the excellent progress being made with the research.  Results from this study will help to optimise the use of current and future treatments. It’s really encouraging to see the impact our funding is having on research.”

Dr Simon Ridley, Director of Research at Myeloma UK said “We are very grateful for the generous support from the Joyce and Norman Freed Charitable Trust.  Myeloma UK receives no government funding and we are almost entirely dependent on voluntary donations to carry out our research, patient advocacy and support. We have identified the work at the SGC as an important area of research, which aims to underpin the discovery of better treatments for patients.  We look forward to seeing the outputs of this SGC project furthering drug research in myeloma.”