Patients with rare form of bone marrow cancer set to take part in Manchester study thanks to £118,000 charity grant

A Manchester Royal Infirmary (MRI) consultant is the chief investigator of a new £118,000 grant-funded study aimed at supporting frail patients with myeloma.

The money, from the Myeloma UK Health Services Research Programme, will fund a two year study looking at developing new strategies for identifying and tackling the causes and impact of frailty in patients with multiple myeloma. It will involve 80 patients who are treated at MRI.

Myeloma is a rare form of bone marrow cancer that currently affects 17,500 people in the UK, and over 1000 people¹ in the Greater Manchester area. It is a relapsing and remitting cancer which is more prevalent in people aged 70 or over.

Frailty which affects around 30% of patients is associated with increased drug-related toxicity, where patients are unable to tolerate chemotherapy, poor quality of life and health outcomes.

Dr Alberto Rocci, Consultant Haematologist and Myeloma Lead at MRI, is the chief investigator of the study. He said:

To date there has been little research into how best to care for frailer myeloma patients, despite such patients often having fewer treatment options and poorer experiences and quality of life.

“This ‘real-world’ study is being delivered in collaboration with Dr John Burthem at the Institute of Cancer Sciences, The University of Manchester and Professor Paul Shiels at the Institute of Cancer Sciences, University of Glasgow. It will look for signs of frailty in myeloma patients. To do this, we will conduct specific blood tests to evaluate innovative biomarkers and look at things like how long it takes a patient to walk a certain distance. After collecting and analysing patient data, we hope to develop a simple screening test to help assess and monitor patients at risk of frailty.

Dr Rocci for website

“The results of this initial study will move our approach towards a more personalised treatment and will provide the rationale to develop future strategies to treat the causes of frailty and improve quality of life and survival for patients with multiple myeloma.”

Sarah Richard, Myeloma UK Health Services Research Manager, added: “Frail patients account for almost a third of all myeloma cases and yet they tend to have a poorer quality of life, fewer treatment options available to them, and to be under-represented in clinical trials, because of the impact some treatments may have on their body.

“We are thrilled to be working with Manchester Royal Infirmary on this research project, and we hope that findings will inform solutions that will substantially improve patients’ experiences and in the longer term, their outcomes.”

The data collected through this study will be used to identify markers of frailty, and to develop a screening test to assess and monitor patients’ frailty.

The Health Services Research programme at Myeloma UK focuses on obtaining high quality evidence to help improve patient outcomes, wellbeing and quality of life, and looks to shape improvements in the way healthcare is funded and delivered.

Following a competitive open grant round, the MRI study was one of two research proposals to be awarded funding.

¹ Prevalence statistic from Macmillan-NCIN Cancer Prevalence Project, 2010