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An exciting new period in stem cell transplant research

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By David Marks, Medical Director of IMPACT.


Stem cell transplants give a second chance of life to 4,400[i] people a year in the UK, but sadly, fewer than half of patients will reach the milestone of five-year survival.

Much-needed improvements in patient outcomes can only be achieved through pioneering research. Clinical trials are crucial in forming the evidence base for new approaches to treatment, but not enough trials are taking place.

The IMPACT partnership to accelerate clinical trials promises to help meet this need, and address the relative scarcity of clinical trial opportunities for stem cell transplant patients. For many years, transplant patients have struggled to access cutting-edge treatment – only one in twenty have participated in a trial, compared to one in five cancer patients – and clinicians know that many more patients would like the opportunity.

IMPACT will roll out twelve trials over the next three years. We plan to reduce the time it takes to complete a trial by a third, so new treatments reach patients much more quickly.

IMPACT will speed up the clinical trial process in three ways. The first is through our dedicated research nurses, based at our partner transplant centres, who will recruit patients and monitor their progress during the trial. Historically, the difficulty of recruiting sufficient numbers of patients has been one of the major barriers to effective trials. By providing the platform for transplant centres to work collaboratively, IMPACT will facilitate access to a much larger patient population than would otherwise be possible at an individual transplant centre.

The second way IMPACT will accelerate clinical trials is by providing much-needed infrastructure. At the heart of IMPACT is an operational ‘hub’, at the University of Birmingham, which provides administrative support and regulatory expertise to help clinical researchers design, deliver and evaluate trials. The hub will speed up vital, but time-consuming, tasks such as developing trial proposals, writing the trial protocol, seeking and obtaining regulatory and ethical approval, and monitoring trials, to allow transplant centres to focus on patient recruitment and delivering trials.

The third way IMPACT will accelerate trials is by facilitating data-sharing between transplant centres. The IMPACT hub will collect data on trial outcomes and provide statistical analysis to help in the evaluation of trials. This will ensure rapid publication of results and see treatments get from bench to bedside more quickly.

This is the beginning of an exciting period in stem cell transplant research. Over the next three years, IMPACT will facilitate up to 12 clinical trials, involving hundreds of patients, that will shed light on how new and existing treatments can deliver better outcomes for patients – and, ultimately, save and improve the lives of more people having a stem cell transplant.

[i] 4,398 transplants carried out in the UK in 2016, source: last accessed 25 October 2017



IMPACT is a partnership of organisations committed to improving the outcomes of stem cell transplant patients through the delivery of clinical trials across the UK. It is jointly funded by Anthony Nolan, Leuka and NHS Blood and Transplant.

The partnership allows transplant centres across the UK to work together to deliver clinical trials focussed on stem cell transplantation. IMPACT provides funding for research nurses in ten centres, and works with a further twelve affiliated centres which also participate in IMPACT trials. IMPACT trials are coordinated by the central hub, located at the Cancer Research UK Clinical Trials Unit (CRCTU) at the University of Birmingham.

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