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Three vital new projects supported by Ruby's fund

We’re thrilled that Ruby’s fund with Children's Cancer & Leukaemia Group is supporting three important new research projects that are starting this summer – all designed to help further understanding of childhood blood cancer. A huge thanks to all our supporters whose fundraising and donations are making these projects possible. When you support Ruby's fund, every penny goes directly towards research projects like the ones described below.

CCLG have pooled the funds raised through Ruby’s fund with some of their other special named funds to support these projects. These include Fred Bennett's Don’t Look Down Fund. Fred (pictured) was diagnosed with leukaemia the same week as Ruby, in July 2019; he died just a few days before Ruby, aged 14, in May 2020. Fred and Ruby never met, but their Mums have become firm friends, and it's wonderful that our fundraising efforts are jointly enabling these vital projects to happen.

Blood cancer treatment has progressed enormously over the last 40 years so that nine out of 10 children with leukaemia, and more than eight out of 10 children with lymphoma, now survive at least five years. But there are still patients – like Ruby and Fred - whose cancer comes back or doesn’t respond to treatment. These cases are classed as ‘high-risk', and doctors need to know more about how this happens and why. The three projects are:

This project aims to find out how certain genes make acute lymphoblastic leukaemia resist treatment or come back after treatment (relapse). It is often difficult to cure patients once they have relapsed (as was the case for Ruby & Fred), so a better understanding is needed of the mechanisms that make these leukaemias high-risk in order to develop effective treatments. Professor Roy has found genes that leukaemia cells need to survive. In this project, her team will look at how the cancer cells behave with and without these genes. This will show exactly how the genes allow the leukaemia to relapse and resist treatment. The hope is that this research will eventually lead to a meaningful improvement in survival and quality of life for children with high-risk leukaemia.

This research aims to help doctors decide which patients need stronger treatments and which could safely have less treatment. In the past, young patients with high-risk leukaemia have been treated with high-dose chemotherapy and sometimes transplants. This improved outcomes for many of these patients, but the strong treatment can have very serious long-term side effects. Better understanding of the factors that put a young person at risk of relapse will enable doctors can decide the best treatment for each child. Professor Moorman's team will be looking at a patient data from the past 30 years to find out whether factors such as a patient’s age at diagnosis or their treatment type, could be used by doctors to predict the severity of a patient’s leukaemia or likelihood that it will relapse.

This research aims to understand more about a particular type of leukaemia - Philadelphia positive acute lymphoblastic leukaemia (Ph+ALL) - which can be very hard-to-treat. Some patients with Ph+ALL don’t respond well to treatment, and doctors think this could be because their cancer is more similar to another type of leukaemia, called chronic myeloid leukaemia. This cancer needs more intensive treatment than Ph+ALL, which could explain why these patients don’t respond as well to Ph+ALL treatments. Understanding which patients are unlikely to respond to standard treatment, means that more intensive treatment approaches can be used from the outset, increasing the chances of a successful outcome.

Other Special Named Funds supporting these three projects include:

  • The Toti Worboys Fund; Toti died of leukaemia aged 11 in 2014.

  • Josh’s Gold Star Fund; Josh died in 2019 just two days after being diagnosed with leukaemia.

  • The Harley James Reynolds Fund; Harley died in 2016 aged just eighteen months, four weeks after being diagnosed with leukaemia.

  • Plus a number of funds set up in celebration of children successfully completing their cancer treatment, or while they are still in treatment.

We are honoured to join forces with these incredible families to celebrate and remember our children in this way.

For a future where all children with cancer survive.

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