Vaccine Collaborative announce further funding for vaccine efficacy research

Research news // 6th July 2021

The Blood Cancer UK Vaccine Research Collaborative has announced further funding into COVID-19 vaccine research for people with blood cancer. The two studies will seek to understand how the vaccines trigger an immune response in people with blood cancer and the extent to which this protects them from COVID-19.

The first study will be led by Dr Beth Stuart from the University of Southampton. The Vaccine Collaborative have provided funding for Dr Stuart to do a Meta-analysis of SARS-CoV-2 vaccine immune responses in patients with haematological malignancies (MesSAge). Dr Stuart and her team will take data from several studies into vaccine effectiveness in people with blood cancer and combine it to create an overall assessment of vaccine response in people with blood cancer to try and identify factors that predict response to the COVID-19 vaccines. The study will include data from all the studies previously funded by the Vaccine Collaborative as well as other studies.

Once the data is put together, the team will assess what the immune response to vaccination is like 2-4 weeks, 6 months and 12 months post second dose, and compare to people who do not have cancer. They will look at how this response differs depending on disease type, treatment type, vaccine type and patient demographics.

The team hope to have data from more than 1,000 people with blood cancer and hope this work will help to understand what is required to produce a robust vaccine response. The team will then liaise with the NHS and Joint Committee for Vaccination and Immunisation to ensure policy decisions can be updated based on these results. This may include advising them on who should be given an additional dose of the vaccine or advising on groups who require different treatments to protect them from COVID-19.

Dr Beth Stuart from the University of Southampton, said:

By combining as much data on vaccine effectiveness in people with blood cancer as we can, we hope to give people the best possible understanding on how they may have responded to COVID vaccination. This will help us understand what precautions people need to keep themselves safe.

The Blood Cancer UK Vaccine Research Collaborative have also provided funding for Professor Julia Hippisley-Cox and her team at the University of Oxford to carry out a study that will look at the safety and effectiveness of the COVID-19 vaccines based on patient data records.

To do this, they will use a database called QResearch, which holds anonymised GP patient data from 45 million people in the UK, the largest database of its kind. Using this, they will look at people with blood cancer and blood disorders, and aim to answer the following questions:

  • What is the COVID-19 vaccine uptake in people with blood cancer?
  • How effective are the vaccines in people with blood cancer and how does this compare to people without cancer?
  • Are additional boosters required for vaccines to be effective?
  • Is the vaccine schedule appropriate for people with blood cancer?
  • Are any blood cancer treatments associated with better or worse outcomes from COVID-19?

The data provided by the QResearch database will tell researchers whether certain vaccines may be better suited for people with blood cancer. They’ll look to see if there’s a difference in the side effects experienced from the vaccines and will look if there’s a difference in the protection offered. They hope to find ways to identify people who may remain vulnerable to severe outcomes from COVID-19 despite vaccination.

Prof Julia Hippisley-Cox and her team also want to understand whether certain treatments could lead to more or less severe COVID-19 if someone caught the virus. The hope is that the findings from this study will feed into a policy change for people with blood cancer as our understanding of the effects of COVID-19 infection and COVID-19 vaccination in people with blood cancers and in the context of cancer treatments grows.

Professor Julia Hippisley-Cox from the University of Oxford said:
We are delighted to be working with Blood Cancer UK on this research which is clearly important not only for the NHS but also to the many patients with blood cancer who have been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Gemma Peters, Chief Executive of Blood Cancer UK, said:
We’re delighted to be supporting both of these studies and hope they will provide some more comprehensive answers about the effectiveness of Covid vaccines for people with blood cancer. The meta-analysis will allow us to look across national and international studies to provide a more detailed understanding of the factors effecting protection and the QResearch database will be the first to give us real world data on what’s happening to people with blood cancer after they have been vaccinated. Both studies will be invaluable in helping us protect our community.”

Henny Braund, Chief Executive of Anthony Nolan, said:
We’re proud to be working with our partners to fund the two studies. We urgently need to know the effectiveness of the vaccine in patients with blood cancer or a blood disorder, or we risk shutting out a significant group of people from everyday life. Both studies will hopefully provide much needed answers, and therefore peace of mind, for the patients we Anthony Nolan support.”

Laura Kerby, Chief Executive of Myeloma UK, said:
These two studies will shed important light on how the vaccine is working in practice for blood cancer patients. The detail we get from these projects will enable us to show real world evidence for any calls for further vaccinations or research required to help protect the myeloma community as we move into the autumn and winter months. Getting ahead of the situation is really important, and we are delighted that these studies have been funded to help us do that.

Professor Adele Fielding, President of the British Society for Haematology, said:
We are very grateful to the teams doing these important studies to determine vaccine efficacy in a population of patients who are both very vulnerable to COVID-19 and less potentially likely to respond to vaccination. Whilst the ugly dual between personal liberty and collective responsibility plays out on the world stage, daily life goes on for patients with blood cancers. Factual information about vaccine response remains critically important to help these individuals and their families plan as safe a life as possible.

Visit our Blood Cancer UK Vaccine Research Collaborative page to keep up to date with all the latest news and announcements.

The following companies have provided funding for our research into COVID-19 vaccine efficacy but have had no further input: Bristol Myers Squibb, Gilead, Janssen, Roche, Takeda.