New Bridge to the Future scheme launched thanks to fundraisers for BCI

Zoe Leech Posted in Charity, Grants & Awards, Interviews 01 May 2015


2015 is the second year our generous supporters have been donating to the Barts Cancer Institute Charity via our fundraising activities.  

We want to say thank you to everyone who has taken the time to organise, volunteer, compete and raise money for us!

Because of all your efforts, we have launched the brand new Bridge to the Future scheme to support our Early Career Researchers who are taking the next steps to becoming independent cancer researchers and leaders in their field.

This first award has been given to Dr Eleni Kotsiou (pictured) in our Centre for Haemato-Oncology, in Dr Jeff Davies’ group.

Why is this work important?

This research team focuses on blood cancer immunotherapies such as stem cell transplantation present, including a potentially life-threatening condition called Graft vs Host Disease, with a view to improving cure rates from these treatments and overall patient experiences.

Eleni’s recent work has included looking at the role of transplantation in follicular lymphoma (FL), which is a common type of non-hodgkin lymphoma, affecting around 2,000 people in the UK every year. Patients with more aggressive forms of FL have only around a 50/50 chance of surviving 10 years after diagnosis and currently the only cure available is stem cell transplantation.

It is vital that our work is published so that it is accessible to the global research community, including other cancer researchers around the world who can make use of these findings in their own projects. This fund allows our scientists to share their work with the wider research community so that people can build on it and make treatment advances for patients.

Follicular lymphoma Bcl 2 wikimedia

Follicular lymphoma under the microscope
(wikimedia commons)

We hope that many other groups will be able to take advantage of this information becoming available and that it will have positive impacts for blood cancer patients.

We spoke to Dr Kotsiou about the news:

How do you feel about receiving this award?

“I’m so pleased, and I feel very lucky that it was launched this year - I am indebted to the people whose hard work in fundraising activities has raised money for this scheme. Thank you!

This fund provides crucial support for researchers completing the final stages of their projects.” 

What does it allow you to do?

“Having worked very hard for the past four years in the lab to produce the data from my projects, I needed financial support during the very last stages.

Being able to stay for another 6 months will help me complete this work, which is very important to our group, to our department and the institute.”

Can you sum up what you’ll be doing for the 6 months covered by this funding?

“The aim is to use this Bridge funding to complete two projects:

One looks at how changes to a gene in Follicular Lymphoma cells that regulates immune responses affects the outcome of stem cell transplant treatments; many patients with Follicular lymphoma receive transplants as treatment so understanding how their genetics can affect responses is very important.

The second project relates to the characterisation of specific cell populations that are known to control immune responses causing tissue damage in patients after stem cell transplant.”

What are your predictions of potential benefits to patients long-term, following this work?

“This work is very clinically relevant and both projects have given us important insights into how we could better apply immunotherapy in specific patient groups and manipulate immune responses to improve patient outcomes after transplant.

The more we understand about how our immune systems adapt to cancer, transplants, infections and the effects of certain gene aberrations on immune responses, the more we can tailor treatments to patients to improve cure rates, survival and comfort.”

We thank everyone who has donated, participated and volunteered to make this award a reality – please visit our Charity Challenge pages to find out how you can get involved!

If you would like to make a donation towards this scheme, please get in touch. With your help, we can continue to push the boundaries of cancer research and invest in the next generation of research scientists.

To read more about our work on lymphoma, please see the related articles below and follow us for the latest updates

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