20 April 2021

A new vaccine research collaborative has been launched to fund research to find out how effective Covid vaccines are for people with blood cancer.

The Blood Cancer UK Vaccine Research Collaborative is a group of organisations led by Blood Cancer UK, in partnership with Myeloma UK, Anthony Nolan and the British Society for Haematology.

People with blood cancer are at particularly high risk from Covid, and the collaborative has been established in response to fears the vaccines may not work as well for them.

The new collaborative will fund research that will look at samples from people with blood cancer who have had the vaccine and try to establish how likely people are to get protection from them depending on their type of blood cancer and their stage of treatment.

The collaborative will identify gaps in the research into vaccine efficacy for blood cancer that is already happening and fund research that will fill any missing pieces to make sure everyone with blood cancer is covered by it. It will also fund a piece of research that will bring the findings of all the individual research projects into one study. Because the collaborative brings together expert organisations focused on blood cancer, it will use their collective expertise to make sure the research gives a comprehensive view.

Gemma Peters, Chief Executive for Blood Cancer UK, said: “Like everyone else, people with blood cancer want to start getting back to normal life, but this depends on them knowing how effective the vaccines are likely to be for them. But while the Government is funding some research, it is not funding enough to give everyone with blood cancer the answers they need. We’re delighted to be working with such important partners who really understand the issue to fill this gap because if Covid is likely to be with us for some time, it is vital that we understand how to best protect the most vulnerable.”

Laura Kerby, Chief Executive of Myeloma UK, said: “At the moment, important decisions on vaccinations, shielding, and re-opening society are being made without enough data on how protected myeloma and other blood cancer patients are.  Myeloma UK is delighted to be working with Blood Cancer UK, Anthony Nolan and the British Society for Haematology to address that information gap and make sure that patients’ needs are recognised and responded to.”

Katy Amberley, Chief Executive of the British Society for Haematology, said: “We are delighted to be working in partnership with Blood Cancer UK, Anthony Nolan and Myeloma UK on this important project and look forward to seeing the data that it generates.”

Henny Braund, Chief Executive at Anthony Nolan, said: “We are proud to join this collaborative. Stem cell patients are extremely vulnerable and want to return to normal life as society opens. As these patients are at high risk from Covid-19, it is critical that vaccines offer them the protection they need. If any stem cell patients need support or information, they can contact Anthony Nolan on 0303 303 0303.”

The research will not give people their individual risk of the vaccine not working. Instead, it will give them the same kind of understanding of their chances of being protected as the general public already has.

Understanding vaccine effectiveness is important, but vaccines are not the only way back to normal life for people with blood cancer. The lower the infection rate, the less likely people with blood cancer are to come into contact with the virus, and there is also hope that antibody treatments currently being developed will be able to reduce the risk of the virus in people who the vaccines do not work for.

Anyone affected by blood cancer who needs support can call Blood Cancer UK’s free support line on 0808 2080 888 or Myeloma UK’s free support line on 0800 980 3332.

Notes to editors:

  • Last month, a study by researchers at King’s College London and the Francis Crick Institute found that people with blood cancer were less likely to have an immune response to the Pfizer Covid vaccine than either people with other types of cancer or people who did not have cancer. But because it only included a small number of patients, it was not clear which people with blood cancer are most likely to benefit from a vaccine.