Today, in a world first, blood cancer charity Anthony Nolan has launched new technology which will improve stem cell transplant outcomes and make the best patient-donor matches ever.
Saliva and blood samples will be ‘typed’ using new technology which allows Anthony Nolan’s scientists to obtain very high quality information about a patient and donor’s tissue types by analysing an entire gene in one go, enabling them to make the best possible matches.
The first group of potential donors to be typed in this way includes Lloyd Ellis, a 25-year-old Adjudicator from London, who signed up to the Anthony Nolan register after seeing a friend on Facebook post about the charity.
The saliva samples from these potential lifesavers have been tissue typed with a level of definition and accuracy which has never before been possible, and ultimately everyone who joins the Anthony Nolan register will be tissue typed in the same way.
It is hoped this will lead to improved survival rates post-transplant and help reduce the number of patients experiencing post-transplant complications.
As a result, these donors could offer the ‘best hope yet’ for blood cancer and blood disorder patients in need of stem cell transplants.
Professor Nigel Russell from the Centre for Clinical Haematology at Nottingham University Hospital said: “I am delighted that Anthony Nolan has launched its Third Generation Sequencing technology. This is an important milestone for all of us working in the field of stem cell transplantation and will enable us to find the best possible donors for our patients.
“I believe that typing donors and patients to the level made possible by TGS will give our patients the greatest chance of a successful outcome. It is a truly exciting development and I am very much looking forward to seeing future generations of transplant patients reap the benefits.”
Donor Lloyd added: “I’m really happy to support the research and proud to be a part of the process to help patients to get better matches.
“It’s pretty amazing to hear I’m one of the first people in the world to be tested in this way. I had no idea so much information could be gathered just from my spit. I hope that this could help me be a successful match for someone in the future; it would be an honour to be in a position to help.”
George Freeman MP, Minister for Life Sciences, toured the Anthony Nolan Research Institute and Laboratories in Hampstead this morning to see the system in action.
The Minister met Anthony Nolan’s Chief Executive, Henny Braund, and the charity’s Scientific Director, Professor Alejandro Madrigal, as well as Dr Katy Latham, Laboratory Director, and Professor Steven Marsh, Director of Bioinformatics and Deputy Director of Research.
Mr Freeman said: “This vital new technology which is the first of its kind in the world has the potential to save the lives of countless patients with devastating blood disorders and cancers.
“Such exciting developments help to reinforce the UK’s position as a world-leader in developing life-enhancing medical technology, and also demonstrate the vital role played by charities like Anthony Nolan in helping to deliver this technology to patients.”
Anthony Nolan uses its register to match potential stem cell donors to blood cancer and blood disorder patients in need of stem cell transplants. It also carries out pioneering research to increase stem cell transplant success, and supports patients through their transplant journeys.
Henny Braund, Anthony Nolan’s Chief Executive, said: “Just as Anthony Nolan was the world’s first stem cell donor registry, it is also the first registry to invest in this pioneering new technology.
“As with everything we do, this investment was driven by a desire to save the lives of more blood cancer and blood disorder patients.
“We are delighted that George Freeman MP was able to join us to mark this important milestone for Anthony Nolan.
“We are glad to have the opportunity to highlight the important work that medical research charities like Anthony Nolan do to ensure that patients across the country benefit from cutting edge research.”
The promising technology - two pioneering systems, which enable highly accurate sequencing of full-length HLA genes - has the potential to ‘revolutionise’ the field of tissue (or HLA) typing, allowing the charity to find better matches for stem cell transplant patients.
This advanced tissue typing should also be faster than previous techniques, allowing the potential for more donors to be typed every year. Typing more donors would increase the chances of every patient finding a well matched donor; a vital move as currently only 60 per cent of transplant patients receive the best possible match.
The technology – which is known as Third Generation Sequencing - also allows Anthony Nolan to further understand donor-patient compatibility in stem cell transplantation, as the new highly accurate reads of the patient and donor’s HLA types will allow the charity’s researchers to identify currently unknown factors which contribute to the success or failure of a stem cell transplant.
This information could prove to be invaluable for improving the success of future transplants.
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