Associate Professor Blyth is recognised for her research on cellular therapies for cancer – driving better treatments for people with blood cancers.
One stream of her research involves the development and clinical implementation of adoptive T cell therapies for blood cancers, such as leukaemia.
T cell therapies are a type of immunotherapy, which is a treatment that uses the body’s own immune cells to fight cancer cells. The immune system is made up of cells and organs that normally protect the body from disease and infection. T cells are immune cells that can be altered to locate and destroy abnormal cells, such as cancer cells.
Associate Professor Blyth has specifically researched manufacturing T cells to target acute myeloid leukaemia. This includes T cells that occur naturally in very low numbers that can be isolated and enriched in the laboratory.
She has led a clinical trial of this technology that has recently completed recruitment. This clinical trial combines standard transplantation with T cell therapies to protect patients from serious infection, as well as to prevent relapse of their cancer.
Together, these two complications account for the majority of deaths that may occur after blood stem cell transplant.
“In the long term, I hope that advanced T cell therapies combined with more complex stem cell transplant procedures will be able to offer patients a safer and more effective therapy,” Associate Professor Blyth says.
“We are recruiting patients into clinical trials to try to progress our understanding of this type of cellular immunotherapy. Understanding what happens to the T cells once they are infused into the patient allows us to alter the manufacturing process to improve the treatment.”
In addition to her fellowship with the Cancer Institute NSW, Associate Professor Blyth is a Senior Staff Specialist Haematologist at Westmead Hospital, a recognised Immune Effector Cell Therapies Translation Centre. She leads the Clinical Immune Effector Cell Service at Westmead Hospital and is a Research Lead at the Westmead Institute for Medical Research.
“Working with a great team has been a real privilege, and the Institute fellowship has been instrumental in supporting the whole research group’s work. Having dedicated time for research has enhanced the links between the clinical side of my work and research,” A/Prof Blyth says.
“I’d like to thank the team for their support in my training as a physician scientist, in particular my mentor and supervisor Professor Gottlieb and the head of the clinical haematology department, Clinical Associate Professor Jennifer Curnow.”
The $10,000 fellowship will support Associate Professor Blyth to advance her research. Following this fellowship, Associate Professor Blyth will receive a NSW Ministry of Health Early/Mid Career Fellowship in Cell and Gene Therapy to further support her work.
“I’m really excited about the future of these artificial receptor technologies. Building the skill base to develop and manufacture these products in Australia will help our patients to get access to them earlier,” she says.