Dr Rhys Morgan, a researcher and lecturer in Biomedical Sciences at the University of Sussex, joins Leukaemia & Myeloma Research UK’s specialist Research Review Committee (RRC).
The Committee is made up of scientists appointed by the Board of Trustees to assess applications for the charity’s research grant scheme each year. The team also 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.
Dr Morgan joins three specialist scientists to make up the charity’s research panel; 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.
On being appointed to the RRC, Dr Morgan 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 AML, having started his research 13 years ago during his PhD at Cardiff University.
There are many forms of AML with differing underlying genetic mutations, clinical presentation and prognoses. Dr Morgan is actively researching stem cell signalling pathways to understand what causes the molecular abnormalities to occur and whether these pathways can be reset to improve the treatment of AML.
Dr Morgan added: “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 interest in stem cells doesn’t end with his research. He is also on the Stem Cell Register and in 2016, he donated his stem cells to a blood cancer patient who is still doing well today.
“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.
“This September is Blood Cancer Awareness Month – a brilliant opportunity to raise awareness of the signs and symptoms of this disease. The initial symptoms of blood cancer, such as fatigue, fever, weight loss and bruising can seem quite generic and are often mistaken for other illnesses. However, my advice would be to trust your instinct and if you know something doesn’t feel right (more serious than a common cold), then go and see your GP.”
For more information on Dr Rhys Morgan and his vital research, visit: