National award for Dr Paul Ferguson’s ground-breaking stem cell transplant research
11 July 2016
University Hospitals Birmingham clinical lecturer in haematology Dr Paul Ferguson has won a prestigious award for his research into stem cell transplantation for patients with acute myeloid leukaemia (AML).
Dr Ferguson picked up the John Goldman Prize for the best clinical research presentation at the British Society of Blood and Marrow Transplantation Annual Scientific Day in May.
Not only did he have the winning presentation, Dr Ferguson also had a second abstract selected for presentation on the day – meaning that he gave two of the six talks chosen for the event.
His award-winning research study of some 9,000 AML patients treated over the past decade has generated a new diagnostic criteria for patients with primary refractory AML. Using this new diagnostic criteria Dr Ferguson was able to identify patients with primary refractory disease earlier in their treatment pathway and was also able to better predict those patients who will benefit from a stem cell transplant.
Primary refractory AML is diagnosed in patients whose disease fails to respond to chemotherapy. Until now there has been a lack of consensus as to how primary refractory disease is defined and traditionally it is not normally diagnosed until a patient has failed to achieve a remission following two courses of intensive chemotherapy.
“In a nutshell we were able to redefine what constitutes primary refractory AML,” explained Dr Ferguson. “By applying our new definition we were able to identify patients with primary refractory disease much earlier than would traditionally be the case – and furthermore we were able to identify which patients would benefit most from a stem cell transplant.
“The advantages of this are twofold. Firstly, you are able to make an informed treatment decision earlier in the patient’s treatment pathway, thereby reducing the number of futile cycles of chemotherapy given to a patient, and second of all you are able to implement a transplant strategy at the earliest opportunity which hopefully has a positive effect in terms of achieving long-term survival after transplantation.”
Dr Ferguson’s second presentation highlighted his work, in collaboration with colleagues in Oxford, using next generation DNA sequencing to analyse whether gene mutations in a patient’s AML sample can predict for disease relapse and long-term survival following a stem cell transplant.
“We’ve identified some mutations that may predict a patient’s risk of disease relapse and overall survival following a stem cell transplant” said Dr Ferguson.
“We have also looked at how the clonal composition of their leukaemia changes between diagnosis and relapse post-transplant, which has important ramifications for how we design treatment strategies to try to avoid patients experiencing disease relapse post-transplant.
“We were incredibly pleased to have not one but two abstracts selected for presentation. It’s the culmination of a lot of hard work and highlights our academic strengths in Birmingham.
“We have a very strong clinical trials portfolio in blood cancers, in particular myeloid diseases, and we have a huge amount of collaboration going on with scientists at the University of Birmingham to drive ground-breaking research.”
Professor Charlie Craddock, director of the Centre for Clinical Haematology at UHB, said: “Paul could not have worked harder or more effectively on both of these potentially practice changing projects.
“The future looks bright for our blood and marrow transplant (BMT) programme which, through so many people’s hard work, is now delivering practice changing clinical translational work. It makes one realise what a great place Birmingham now is for haemato-oncology and BMT.”