CLL Support Association
9,667 members15,122 posts

Update on Leukaemia & Lymphoma Research’s work in Cardiff

Update on Leukaemia & Lymphoma Research’s work in Cardiff

"Cardiff has an internationally renowned team that focuses on CLL. This group, led by Professor Chris Pepper, recently developed a new model for investigating the behaviour of leukaemia cells under conditions that mimic what's happening in the bloodstream of patients. They are using this new model to uncover the mechanisms that enable leukaemia cells to escape the blood vessels."




6 Replies

Interesting article - thanks Neil. It's great to know that research is going on from some new perspectives in Cardiff, to deepen understanding of CLL (and other leukemias).

However, I get a bit disturbed when I hear that a recent study showed that " the length of specialised pieces of DNA found at the ends of chromosomes, called telomeres, can reliably predict CLL patient survival..... the team are now working towards making this powerful test available to CLL patients."

This makes it sound as if our fate is in our telomeres, and there's not much we can do about it... :-( Surely patient survival will depend on a variety of things... eg which treatments we have, what our genetic markers are, which infections we might pick up, and other underlying illnesses/aging processes going on inside us.. not just the state of our telomeres. And how many of us would really want to take a test that reliably predicted our survival?

On the other hand, the article also says "... we can now identify subsets of CLL patients who might particularly benefit from treatment with Ibrutinib and Idelalsib." Well that's certainly good news (and I presume it's talking about more than folk with 17p deletions doing better on Ibrutinib). :-)

I like the way the article says " it's important that we develop ways of predicting the best treatment for individual patients. Not only do we need markers to predict response to drugs, we also need reliable markers of disease progression and clinical outcome."

Yes, with CLL being such a different disease in different people, that's certainly the hope for the future. Go for it, Cardiff...


Ahh, but you CAN change the length of your telomeres! Building on work from the first Australian woman to win a Nobel prize for her work on the the role of the enzyme telomerase, we are now discovering how lifestyle can influence telomere length maintenance and indeed are finding ways in which we can lengthen them!

While Chris Pepper's research has added to the list of tests that leave us with the quandary of do we want to know the results or not, at least in this case, we may eventually be able to do something about changing the result from testing this prognostic indicator and hopefully thereby, our expected lifetime. :)



Wow!! So much about telomeres on this site, and somehow I missed (or forgot) it…

I was wrong in saying there's nothing much we do do about our telomeres... For those who, like me, hadn’t taken this on board earlier, here are some interesting things from the links Neil's given above, about lengthening telomeres, and prolonging survival. Things we can do ourselves and don’t need complicated medical interventions..

1) Professor Elizabeth Blackburn said "there are studies showing that if you live a generally healthier lifestyle - exercise, reduce stress and have social support, then telomere maintenance is better… Those who do pretty decent exercise you see their telomere length is better, especially in settings of stress. It seems to offset stress".

2) When asked "Can people overdo it?", she responded, "...if you overdo exercise, we see the telomere maintenance worsen". (I found that very interesting, that TOO MUCH exercise isn’t so good.)

3) She also mentioned that Omega 3 is related to improvement in telomere length

4) Stress factors such as divorce or caring for an elderly parent, showed evidence of telomere shortening (during a 1-year period in a cohort of middle-age women)

5) Research has shown that telomeres shorten more quickly in inactive people.

6) Eating a “Mediterranean diet” was associated with longer telomeres. This means lots of fruits, veg, nuts, legumes, unrefined grains, olive oil, fish, and a bit of wine with meals. And not so much meat or dairy products.

7) Lack of sleep can be bad for telomeres.. Dr. Katri Savolainen from the University of Helsinki told Reuters Health. "…patients with sleep apnea may be at higher risk for effects and diseases caused by short telomeres."

So, I suppose it’s common sense really, but it all shows that the things we probably knew already about healthy diet, exercise (but not too much), lack of stress, and a good night’s sleep, are all VERY good for us…and it shows in our telomeres.. :-)



Thanks for the concise summary on how we can improve our telomere length Paula. Yes, I too find it interesting that out telomere length seems to provide a good reflection on how healthily we are living. Makes you wonder whether if in future, we'll have a simple test to check our telomere length, which our doctor will assess against the expected range for our age. If the results aren't encouraging then we'd expect a call from our doctor for a more detailed health assessment to identify opportunities for lifestyle changes that would hopefully improve our chances of a better quality of life as we get older.

There's also the possibility of telomere treatment perhaps extending our time to CLL treatment with drugs that will hopefully have less side effects than those used to treat CLL.

Chris Pepper's team must be excited to have all these possibilities hinging on their research along with other researchers that are exploring how telomere length is influenced by lifestyle and illness.



Thanks for this, Neil. Very interesting. I can see that telomeres are a good reflection on how healthily we are living, but are they just a reflection, or do they actually drive what's going on? (Do I smile because I'm healthy, or am I healthy because I smile?) :-) Some research seems to be about how telomeres can by physically lengthened by adding RNA, influencing the enzyme telomerase.

I quote : "Telomerase, the enzyme that Professor Blackburn co-discovered, stops these telomeres from shortening and can even lengthen them. Thus influences on the effectiveness of telomerase also influence the length of a healthy lifetime or 'lifespan.' "

And another aspect.. Prof Blackburn then went on to state "People are now saying the biggest cardio disease risk factor is not genes, it is socio-economics. Telomeres lie at the central node of all this." This is behind Professor Blackburn's current interest in looking at the the role meditation can play in replenishing telomeres.

I guess I'm still trying to get my brain around this telomere business.



Yes, you me and even Nobel prize winners are trying to do what telomeres prevent ;) - unravel how they change with time and what influences telomerase. Definitely an area of research to follow for new discoveries.


You may also like...