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Sussex researcher joins Leukaemia & Myeloma Research UK's Research Review Committee

A University of Sussex researcher has been appointed to the Research Review Committee for a UK charity committed to tackling blood cancer.

Dr Rhys Morgan, a lecturer in Biomedical Science, joins three other scientists to make up the specialist Research Review Committee (RRC) for Leukaemia & Myeloma Research UK.

The Committee is made up of scientists who provide professional guidance on promising areas of research which tie in with the charity’s focus on stem cell therapies to treat blood cancer patients. They also assess applications for the charity’s research grant scheme each year.

Dr Morgan joins Dr Paul Hole, a Principal Investigator at ReNeuron, Dr Claire Seedhouse, an Associate Professor within Division of Cancer and Stem Cells at the University of Nottingham, and Professor Joseph Slupsky, a Reader in Department of Molecular and Clinical Cancer Medicine at the University of Liverpool.

He said: “I first heard about Leukaemia & Myeloma Research UK after Dr Paul Hole, a colleague at Cardiff University, was awarded the charity grant for his research into Acute Myeloid Leukaemia (AML).

“As my area of interest was closely linked to the charity’s, I was later approached by the Board asking to join their RRC – it was a very easy yes!

“The RRC meets once a year to review all the grant applications and put forward what we believe to be the best fit for the charity with the most promising areas of research. Having a diverse panel, each with our specialist areas of expertise and research is beneficial as we all see things differently”.

Dr Rhys Morgan is the Director of the Sussex Haematology Research Group and specialises in acute myeloid leukaemia, having started his research 13 years ago during his PhD at Cardiff University.

Dr Morgan said: “There is an urgent need for targeted and better tolerated therapies to help treat blood cancer patients. Many of the chemotherapies used to treat AML were developed in the 1970s and are highly toxic to patients, and they can also fail to completely eradicate the disease. Gaining a thorough understanding of what causes genetic mutations to occur will be crucial in creating specific treatments that induce long-term cures for the disease.

“There is so much potential in human cord blood, which is mostly treated as a clinical waste product in many hospitals. In our lab, we’re fortunate to have access to cord bloods from the local maternity ward which are packed full of blood stem cells, which would otherwise have been thrown away. The examination of these in the laboratory provides an invaluable and fascinating insight into blood cancers and allows us to identify molecular abnormalities”.

Dr Morgan’s commitment to treating blood cancer doesn’t end with his research either. He is on the Stem Cell Register and actively encourages the Sussex community to find out more and join. In 2016, he donated his stem cells to a blood cancer patient who is still doing well today. More recently, in May 2020, he held two virtual events on stem cell donation hosting Zoom Q&As to debunk myths and gain insight from both a donor and a recipient, the latter a student from the University who received a life-saving transplant.

Dr Morgan said: “I’ve always been fascinated with stem cells and how they can be used to treat many illnesses, but my drive to fight blood cancer comes from losing my younger brother David to lymphoma when he was only 21 years old. After receiving chemotherapy at the age of 17, he went into remission but when it returned it was more aggressive and resistant to treatment. David is the inspiration behind all of my research and donating my bone marrow stem cells to help others.”

Find out more about Dr Rhys Morgan’s research at https://www.sussex.ac.uk/lifesci/morganlab

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By: Stephanie Allen
Last updated: Friday, 2 October 2020

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