Treating leukaemia

Ben Ede

Ben Ede (PhD 2014-) is looking to see whether a naturally occurring herb extract could be used to treat childhood leukaemia.

'Around 300 children in the UK are diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukaemia each year, and the treatments they face are painful and severe.

'My research focuses on two different areas. Firstly, I’m trialling a naturally occurring herb that’s already been shown to be effective for treating other types of leukaemia. If I can prove it works in the lab, the treatment could progress to clinical trial.

'Secondly, I’m also looking at whether stem cells from the umbilical cord (usually discarded at birth) can be used instead of donated bone marrow for stem cell transplants. If they can, children won’t need to wait to be matched with a bone marrow donor, and the treatment they face will be far less traumatic.  

'Cancer affects us all. It doesn’t care who we are, how old we are, or where we live. I lost my dad to a brain tumour when I was 20. 

'I probably don’t need to tell you how aggressive most cancer treatments are. Chemotherapy doesn’t just kill cancer cells. It kills healthy cells too. It’s incredibly intense – and toxic. That’s why you have all these horrible side effects: nausea, hair loss, mouth ulcers and sometimes other cancers. We need treatments that target cancer cells, but leave healthy cells alone. 

'I wanted to go straight on to a PhD after my undergraduate degree. I love science, and love learning how things work. I just couldn’t find funding. 

'For two years, I worked as a full-time biomedical scientist for the NHS in Bristol while keeping an eye out for PhD opportunities. I still kept up my research in my spare time though – that’s how much I wanted a chance to come back to university.'

'As soon as I saw this PhD at Bristol, I knew I had to go for it. I came to look around the University, and was really impressed by the facilities. I could also tell the research community is really close-knit.

'Every day, I work with incredibly inspiring people from really varied disciplines. There’s so much expertise to draw on. Only last week, at our annual faculty conference, I was reminded that the research we’re doing here at Bristol is among the best in the country. I’m just so proud – and grateful – to be here. Thank you.'

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