Ulster University lecturer awarded over £400k for childhood cancer research

  • Ulster University’s Dr Kyle Matchett, has been awarded a five-year Career Establishment Award of £415,000 from The Little Princess Trust for his research into childhood leukaemia.

    The research aims to better understand how childhood leukaemia develops, including the role of a key altered gene, and to create more effective, kinder treatments.

    Using advanced genetic approaches, Dr Matchett and his team will try to identify the Achilles’ heel of this gene alteration, which may lead to new therapies.

    As part of this grant, funds have also been allocated to develop a new NI Childhood Cancer Network, open to researchers, clinicians, charities and parent representatives to share knowledge and expertise.

    Dr Matchett’s work is specifically focused on an aggressive childhood leukaemia called Acute Myeloid Leukaemia (AML).

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    Only six out of every 10 children diagnosed with AML will be expected to survive more than five years. These poor outcomes are further complicated by the severe therapy-associated side effects that children often experience during current treatment regimes.

    Dr Matchett, who is a lecturer in molecular immunology at the Northern Ireland Centre for Stratified Medicine within Ulster University, commented: “Thanks to the grant, our research team will be able to develop new partnerships with scientists and clinicians throughout the UK and Ireland and indeed in Europe and the US, learning new techniques and implementing them here in Northern Ireland.”

    The grant will also fund a new PhD studentship and Research Fellow to support the team.

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    This award represents one of the largest grants that The Little Princess Trust have awarded to date. It comes after several other awards for Kyle in recent years, including a Novartis Fellowship and Medal and the Early Career Research Excellence Award at Ulster.

    Leona Knox’s young son Oscar passed away from cancer in May 2014, so it is a subject close to her heart.

    She said: “Children with cancer need more and better treatment options, and I'm delighted to see Dr Kyle Matchett champion this area of research in NI. This significant investment from Little Princess Trust is testament to their confidence in his leadership and ability to make a real difference for those children with leukaemia who desperately need more novel therapies.”

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