Brussels, 19 Apr 2005
A Sixth Framework Programme (FP6) project is spearheading cutting edge stem cell research to improve the survival chances of bone marrow transplant patients.
For the past year, the AlloStem project has brought together more than 50 scientific and clinical research groups from 19 different countries in a bid to transform the treatment of leukaemia and significantly increase the chances of survival for many patients.
'The project has been incredible,' says Alejandro Madrigal, scientific director at the Anthony Nolan Trust, who has been coordinating the project. 'We are ahead of where we expected to be. One of the major advantages is the active cooperation in Europe. Compared to the US, Europe is much more productive, has much more collaboration and is more open-minded,' he adds.
The AlloStem project received eight million euro from the European Commission, the largest grant the EU has ever awarded to an immunotherapy programme.
Although there have been important advances in the treatment of leukaemia over the last 30 years, bone marrow transplantation, or haematopoietic stem cell transplantation (HSCT), is still the only therapy that can completely cure leukaemia. Yet some patients and certain conditions are considered to be unsuitable for HSCT because of the risk of further complications after a transplant. AlloStem will use recent findings that show how these risks can be significantly reduced to make bone marrow transplants safer and more effective.
'By reducing post-transplant illness AlloStem's programme will have a huge social impact, ensuring that a greater number of adults and children will be treated in the future. This will lead to an improvement in healthcare and the development of new pharmaceuticals that will have a dramatic impact on treatment worldwide,' explain the project partners.
AlloStem will focus on the development of new technologies in the field of stem cell transplantation and the transformation of these new technologies into clinical applications. Due to the wide implications of these new therapies, AlloStem not only comprises scientists from the fields of stem cell biology, immunogenetics, transplantation, cells processing and immunotherapy, but has also incorporated advisory committees of experts in law, ethics, social science and representatives of patients' and donor organisations.