Blood Cancers

Focused laboratory research

Blood Cancers

The Blood Cancers Focus Group has research activities across the spectrum of diseases represented by the umbrella term, Blood Cancers.

Our Members

Chair: Professor Ken Mills

The Blood Cancers Focus Group encompasses a wide range of translational and clinical scientists, bio-informaticians, medicinal chemists, pathologists and academic clinicians from the CCRCB and the Belfast Health and Social Care Trust.

Group Members
Dr Lesley Anderson Dr Sandra Irvine  Dr Melanie Percy
Dr Mark Catherwood Professor Terry Lappin Dr Kienan Savage 
Dr Lisa Crawford Dr Kyle Matchett Dr Alex Thompson
Dr Gerald Gavory Professor Mary Frances McMullin            Dr Lakshmi Venkatraman
Professor Tim Harrison                Dr Suzanne McPherson Dr Paul Winter 
Associate Members
Dr Claire Arnold Dr Mervyn Humphreys Dr Bethany Mitchell
Dr Gary Benson Mrs Amy Logan Dr Michael Quinn 
Dr Robert Cuthbert Dr Christine Macartney               Dr Oonagh Sheehy
Dr Mary Drake Dr Scott McCloskey  
Dr Damian Finnegan Dr Peter McGrattan


Areas of Research Focus

The Blood Cancers research laboratory is focussed on developing and applying pre-clinical models of disease that are complemented by active collaborations with the haematology consultants across Northern Ireland. 

Myeloid Malignancies

Myeloid malignancy, itself a spectrum of diseases covering Myelodysplastic Syndromes (MDS), Myeloproliferative Neoplasms (MPN) and Acute Myeloid Leukaemia (AML), has an unmet need for new effective and less intensive therapies as the survival rates, particularly in the elderly (over 65 years old) are still poor. 

One angle of our research has been an emphasis on identifying potential therapeutic agents repurposed from treatments for other diseases including those used for dementia or diabetes.  This also interacts with our studies on the epi-sensitisation of leukaemia cells by combining epigenetic therapies with novel, repurposed or existing therapies to improve their effect and reduce toxicity.  Other studies have involved using the CRISPR-CAS system to introduce or repair mutations associated with myeloid malignancies in order to understand their molecular contribution to disease development and evolution.


Myeloma, also known as multiple myeloma, is a blood cancer arising from plasma cells and is considered to be incurable but treatable.  Myeloma has a remitting-relapsing disease course, with remissions induced with steroids, chemotherapy, proteasome inhibitors or immunomodulatory drugs but these do not have long term benefit so our research has been to identify new targets around the ubiquitin pathway that can improve patient outcomes.

Clinical Trials

A vital part of the Blood Cancer Research Group’s activities are the interactions with clinical colleagues.  This is represented nationally and internationally by our participation in trials for MDS, AML, MPN and CML supported by the Bloodwise Therapy Acceleration Programme (TAP) portfolio within the NI Cancer Trials Centre.  Locally, Focus Group members as registered clinical scientists attend multi-disciplinary team (MDT) meetings, assess quality of bone marrow harvests, have developed assays for AML mutations that have transitioned into the clinical diagnostic laboratories and are developing next-generation sequencing panels to further extend/enhance the diagnostic and prognostic capability for blood cancers across Northern Ireland.



Advanced Radiotherapy


Brain Tumour