Professor Philip Murphy
Consultant Haematologist, Beaumont Hospital and Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland
In the past year, Irish haematologists have been at the forefront of investigations into the causes of life-threatening clotting problems associated with COVID-19 infection, whilst Irish scientists continue cutting edge research in many other areas of haematology.
Irish haematologists are currently reporting outcomes of haematology patients who have contracted COVID-19 to an anonymised international registry.
At the recent meeting of the American Association for Cancer Research, a meta-analysis reported that, whilst the overall risk of death for patients with cancer and COVID-19 was 25% compared to a risk of 1-2% in the general population, the risk of death was 47% greater in haematological cancers compared to solid tumours. Therefore, Irish haematologists remain extremely vigilant about reducing the risk of this infection in their patients.
Investigating COVID-19 associated thrombosis
Researchers at the Irish Centre for Vascular Biology at the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland (RCSI), under the leadership of Professor James O’Donnell, have extensively researched the causes of clotting complications commonly seen in the more severe forms of COVID-19 infection. In particular, they have shown that viral induced damage to endothelial cells lining the blood vessels in the lungs leads to micro-clots and poorer outcomes.
Patients with myeloma are also at increased risk of thrombotic complications, especially if they are taking immunomodulatory drugs (IMIDs), a common anti-myeloma therapy.
Personalised therapies for myeloma
Myeloma is a cancer of cells in the bone marrow which often cause severe bone disease and/or renal failure. Professor Siobhan Glavey is Consultant Haematologist at Beaumont Hospital and RCSI Professor of Pathology. Her laboratory is now able to measure if a myeloma patient is completely free of disease following therapy, using state of the art molecular techniques. This will lead to personalised therapy for patients and improvement in their quality of life.
Patients with myeloma are also at increased risk of thrombotic complications, especially if they are taking immunomodulatory drugs (IMIDs), a common anti-myeloma therapy. Researchers at Beaumont Hospital and the Irish Centre for Vascular Biology at RCSI are thus currently researching the role of the pro-thrombotic molecule, von Willebrand factor, in the pathogenesis of myeloma.
New research pipeline
This year, Blood Cancer Network Ireland (BCNI) in collaboration with Cancer Trials Ireland, is starting an important phase Ib trial for patients with recurrence of their myeloma. Led by Dr Janusz Krawczyk, patients will be treated with a novel combination of standard anti-myeloma therapy plus an antibody directly targeting the myeloma cells.
Currently, BCNI is using patient reported outcome measurements (PROMs) in common haematological cancers, such as leukaemia and myeloma, to better understand patient quality of life and adverse effects of treatment.