The UK’s first ever clinical trials partnership for stem cell transplantation was formally launched on 1 November.
Over 100 guests attended the event at the Reform Club in London, including patients, clinicians, researchers and policymakers.
In his opening remarks, IMPACT Medical Director Professor David Marks outlined the importance of a stem cell transplant research. Professor Marks said:
“Broadly speaking we currently cure about 40 to 50% of our patients. The great majority of survivors return to work, pay taxes and contribute to society. Some survive but have complications preventing a return to work. So transplant is an effective therapy but we need to get better; to cure more people and to reduce post-transplant complications. The way we improve outcomes is by doing clinical trials… Our clinical results are world class but we have under-achieved in clinical transplant research especially, compared to the US, France and Italy.”
Professor Sir John Bell, life sciences advisor to the Prime Minister and author of the Life Science Industrial Strategy was also in attendance to support for the initiative. Sir John told guests:
“The IMPACT model is a really good illustration of how you can think differently about how you do trials. The model is hugely valuable to patients and it’s also hugely valuable to industry, and its one that we want to replicate more widely. I congratulate you on having got this far and look forward to the terrific success which I think IMPACT will generate.”
The third speaker was Deborah Harkins, who received a stem cell transplant for acute myeloid leukaemia in 2016 and is participating in the FIGARO study. Deborah said:
“I have spoken to other patients about trials and most people I have spoken to, especially those at high risk of relapse like me, wish there were more opportunities to be involved in trials, to test out new treatments. I think about the amazing young man who donated his stem cells to me every day. We owe it to my donor and all the others who give the ultimate gift, to make stem cell transplants work every time. IMPACT gives us the opportunity to get closer to that goal.”
All three speakers also paid tribute to Professor Charles Craddock for identifying the need for a trials platform for stem cell transplant, and for driving the project forward. Professor Marks said:
“[Professor Craddock] approached a number of people and organisations and was repeatedly but politely told ‘no’. Being told ‘no’ didn’t deter him, he just kept going and eventually persuaded people to change their mind.” Professor Marks also thanked Anthony Nolan, Leuka and NHS Blood and Transplant for funding the initiative “in a tight health economic climate.”
Watch interviews with Professor Marks and Deborah Harkins on the IMPACT YouTube channel.