2013 News Letter

People in Oxfordshire and beyond have run marathons, raced bikes, climbed (and jumped off) tall buildings, put on music festivals and sold handmade crafts to fund research into a rare form of childhood Leukaemia………and it’s really helping!

Friends and family of Amber Phillpott, the 18 month old who died just over 2 years ago from Acute Myeloid Leukaemia (AML ) have not stopped raising funds in her name. From massive personal sporting challenges to putting on music events, selling handmade bunting and crafts and shaking tins at punters in the local pub it is truly amazing that over £60,000 has been raised in tribute to Amber to date.

But what actually happens to all the money after the event has finished and the sponsorship money has been counted and collected?

The Amber Phillpott Trust is proud to announce that as a result of research funded by some of the money collected in the last 2 years, there has been an important development in the fight against AML, the results of which have been published in BLOOD the Journal of the American Society of Hematology – http://bloodjournal.hematologylibrary.org/content/122/5/749.long  (see below for details of the development).

In short, the research funded in part by the Trust could provide the basis for a completely new way to target AML.

Dr Francis Mussai from Birmingham Children’s Hospital and lead researcher on the project said “We are extremely excited about this new development and are working hard on the next stage. We are so thankful to all the people who have done amazing things in Amber’s name to raise money to aid the research and would like to personally thank everyone. It really does make a difference and it is extremely humbling for the research team to hear about the dedication and effort that has gone into raising this money.

James Phillpott, Amber’s father and trustee said “I have been amazed by all the things people have done to raise money. It is extremely encouraging to me and my fellow trustees to know that the public are so supportive. Their generosity has enabled us to fund research that is already delivering results. I am sure it makes people feel they have given to a worthwhile cause. Of course, we are not stopping now so long may it continue!”

Scientific Details

Amber first came into contact with researchers whilst being treated at the John Radcliffe hospital in Oxford.  Some of her blood was given for experimental testing and it was found that a chemical process was weakening the immune defence system and that this finding was worthy of further investigation. After the Trust was set up it donated funds to Oxford University to purchase an ELISA spectrometer which helped researchers investigate the mechanisms by which AML cells interact with the immune system and allow them to escape destruction. In addition the research team are using novel drugs and effector cells to control the AML activity. The mechanisms that they are studying include the release of chemicals from AML cells and depletion of essential nutrients from the immune environment. These assays often use methods that result in a specific colour change hence the use of the spectrometer. The team at Oxford University have made significant and exciting progress in understanding how AML can dampen the immune response and has published their initial results in a paper in BLOOD – the Journal of the American Society of Hematology. http://bloodjournal.hematologylibrary.org/content/122/5/749.long  

The Trust has since made a further donation to Birmingham University to assist in extending these early results. The Trust’s donation will be used to buy essential laboratory equipment and chemicals for analysing AML patient samples. The current approach is to study how a nutrient called Arginine interacts with the leukaemic cell. Arginine is an essential nutrient that is taken in as part of our everyday diet. Dr Mussai’s laboratory group is investigating how arginine is used by AML cells for critical cell processes that keep the AML cells alive. In this next project the laboratory will investigate  how AML cells take up arginine from their surroundings and whether blocking AML cells from using arginine will make them more sensitive to standard chemotherapy drugs. The results could provide a completely new way to target AML.