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What we've done so far

The Blood Cancer UK Vaccine Research Collaborative's mission is to get as much information as possible about the effectiveness of the vaccines for people with blood cancer.

It was early December 2020 and things were starting to look up for people in the UK. We were the first country in the world to license the Pfizer-BioNTech covid vaccine and in quick succession, the Oxford-AstraZeneca one too. For some time in December, we at Blood Cancer UK were fixated on one thing: how do we get these vaccines in the arms of people with blood cancer as soon as possible and what can we do protect our community the most.

As December went on, we got reports of many of our community, who were over 75, starting to receive the vaccine. We had worked hard to get clear and accurate information out about the safety of the vaccines and so it bought us a lot of joy to see our community starting to receive them.

We knew that vaccines don’t typically work as well in people with blood cancer so it was likely that we would see a similar situation in relation to the covid vaccine but we were initially reassured by the Government’s commitment to monitor vaccine effectiveness in people with compromised immune systems.

So, we worked hard to untangle this and work out what the government had funded and what they hadn’t. Quickly, it became apparent that the extent to which the government were funding this work wouldn’t be enough to get answers for people with blood cancer and so we started to pour all our efforts into working out how we could.

This is where the Blood Cancer UK Vaccine Research Collaborative was born.

We brought together a group of the UK's leading haematologists, together with charity partners in the UK and US. Many of the haematologists were already planning studies but were unable to access the funding they needed to get them going. We had weekly meetings with the group and identified that we quickly needed to do two things:

  1. Find a way to raise funds to get these studies going
  2. Coordinate the research in a way that everyone collects data in a similar way so it is comparable and can be built on in the future.

So that’s exactly what we did. We worked with the group to identify what research was essential to be done in each disease area to get answers and soon had agreement from the group on the experiments that needed doing, and the time points at which they needed to collect data.

Alongside this work, we pulled in colleagues from fundraising to help us work out how we could get this work funded. This was no easy task as we needed to work out how we could raise a significant amount of money, but we rose to the challenge and started speaking to pharmaceutical companies, charity partners, foundations and our blood cancer community, all while continuing to lobby the Government to release additional funds to get this essential work going.

As of writing, we’re at a stage where we’re now accepting and reviewing applications from our research community to study vaccine effectiveness in people with blood cancer. Our efforts to fundraise continue, but we are at a stage where we can start funding some work thanks to the generosity of partners from industry, Myeloma UK, Anthony Nolan and the British Society for Haematology. We’re committed to turning around applications in two weeks from when they come in to make sure this work gets going as soon as possible.

All these projects will study a specific group of people with blood cancer. There are two key things to look for to understand how much protection someone has received from a vaccine and these are antibody and T cell response. These are both parts of our immune system that are involved in mounting a response to vaccination. Researchers will therefore look at the peak vaccine response 2-4 weeks after the second dose of vaccination by looking at antibody and T cell responses to vaccination and will also repeat this six and 12 months after vaccination to try and understand how long protection lasts.

Blood Cancer UK has built up strong relationships with our research community planning these studies as well as partners abroad to make sure we share information for you, our community, as soon as we can. This information will help us to give clearer advice to people with blood cancer and will ensure that the government support people who are less protected. In addition to this, it will also help us understand how we might use different or additional methods to protect people with blood cancer and we will do everything in our power to fund as much work as we can. If you would like to contribute to this work, you can donate to Blood Cancer UK.

A big thank you to our Vaccine Task Force, Myeloma UK, the British Society for Haematology and Anthony Nolan for helping us navigate this project. We couldn’t have done it without you.

The Blood Cancer UK Vaccine Research Collaborative is a collaboration of organisations funding the research to find out how well Covid vaccines work. It is led by Blood Cancer UK, in partnership with Myeloma UK, Anthony Nolan and the British Society for Haematology.

The following companies have provided funding for our research into Covid vaccine efficacy but have had no further input: Bristol Myers Squibb, Janssen, Roche, Takeda