Meet our new Head of Research

Find out more about our new Head of Research, Brogan Ashley.

Myeloma UK’s newly-appointed Head of Research, Brogan Ashley, is already busy laying the groundwork for a better, brighter future for the myeloma community. Here she sets out her vision for our new research strategy and explains why the time has come to bring renewed focus on precursor conditions and survivorship. 

You recently joined Myeloma UK as Head of Research. What drew you to the role? 

I see this as role in which there is a potential to make a difference. The team here are passionate about positively impacting the lives of people with myeloma. Myeloma UK’s work within the research space has already achieved so much, from understanding patient need through to accessing treatments. I’m really excited to see how we can take that forward, supporting the research that is considered most important by patients and their families as we work towards better, kinder treatments for myeloma.  

Can you tell us about your background and how your previous experience will inform your work at Myeloma UK?

I studied for my BSc Biology degree at the University of Kent, before deciding to move into medical research. I then went on to carry out a PhD in the Faculty of Medicine at the University of Southampton in the field of human development. The work I did there largely investigated human development and how your early life can affect your health later in life – 20, 30, 40 and even 50 years down the line. While at Southampton, both during my PhD and subsequent research assistant post, I was also fortunate to work on several clinical trials, giving me an appreciation for how trials are managed and the challenges they face. I most recently worked with the National Institute of Health Research (NIHR) in a research management role. At the NIHR, I gained a lot of experience in grant management across a range of disease areas, including cancer. Collectively I think these experiences will serve me well as Myeloma UK starts to look to the future, considering how understanding of precursor conditions could affect disease trajectory, how we can work towards new treatment options, and how we can support people to live well with myeloma.  

What’s Myeloma UK’s biggest asset as a charity?  

The people. This may be influenced by this being my first time working in a smaller organisation and in the charity sector, but the people here are genuinely positive and passionate about doing what they do. They want to make a difference. They want to do their job well; they want to make an impact on that person who’s just called them up, to give them the support they need to make their day better. Everyone is doing 110%. The team has such a broad range of expertise and everyone works collaboratively to support each other. 

The myeloma community is also a vital asset. I know I’ll be able to achieve more in research because of the amazing connection we have with the patients and families who support our work. 

Are there any areas of research you’re particularly excited to work on? 

A personal area of interest is precursor conditions. I think this is such an exciting area with so much potential. We’re in a unique position where we can diagnose MGUS and smouldering myeloma. And there’s a whole world of potential for research to understand these conditions better, which patients will go on to develop myeloma, and to prevent myeloma ever happening in the first place. How many cancers can you test for and potentially treat before it ever fully develops? 

This year, we’ll also work on a research strategy and really think about unmet need, our role in the clinical trial space and where our resources can make the biggest difference. Whatever we do, patients will be at the centre of it. Any decision we make will be aligned with what patients and their families are telling us they want and need. 

What more could and should be done to help improve myeloma treatment? 

We have made huge strides in the treatment of myeloma over the last 25 years. Life expectancy has quadrupled. But there’s so much more we need to do. One area is around survivorship, making sure people can live well with myeloma and that we have research to support that. 

We know that myeloma treatments can be very harsh and have challenging side effects. Myeloma itself has some horrible symptoms that are awful to bear. So we need to be thinking about kinder, more tolerable treatments. 

There’s also a real need to focus on symptoms management, like neuropathy, and much-needed psychological support, not only for patients but their families and friends. 

I can’t imagine how hard it must be for patients – and their loved ones – to live with an incurable cancer.  

What inspires and motivates you day-to-day?  

What motivates me is seeing a difference – the impact that something I’ve contributed to makes on someone. I sometimes think: what if that was my mum? What if that was my dad? This could be me one day. 

And if I was in that situation, I’d want Myeloma UK in my corner. I’d want the support Myeloma UK offers, the treatment options Myeloma UK has helped make available open to me. I’d want to be on a panel, I’d want to have a say on clinical trials. Being able to do this for patients and their families makes all the difference. It makes the hard work worth it. 

Close-up photograph of a hand holding a mobile phone.

Stay in touch

We’d love to stay in touch. Join our mailing list to receive updates from Myeloma UK including our monthly newsletter and updates about our services, research, campaigns and other ways you can get involved.