Sheffield haematologist wins national accolade for stem cell research collaborations for MS patients

Professor John Snowden, Consultant Haematologist at Sheffield Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust and Director of the Blood and Marrow Transplant and Cellular Therapy Programme in Sheffield, has won a national Researcher of the Year award.

Professor John Snowden
Professor John Snowden

The award, jointly bestowed by the National Institute for Health and Care Research and the British Society for Haematology to NHS consultant haematologists who go above and beyond in their specialist field, was given in recognition of his work pioneering autologous stem cell transplantation (AHSCT) in patients with multiple sclerosis and other autoimmune diseases.

AHSCT is when stem cells are harvested from the patient’s own bone marrow and given back to the patient, via an infusion into the blood, following an intensive course of chemotherapy. The treatment is traditionally used in patients with disorders of the blood and bone marrow such as leukaemia and lymphoma.

Professor Snowden has been a Consultant Haematologist and Director of the Blood and Marrow Transplant and Cellular Therapy Programme in Sheffield since 2002, most recently contributing to one of the biggest research breakthroughs in the care of patients with multiple sclerosis as co-investigator of the landmark ‘MIST’ trial. He works closely with Professor Basil Sharrack, Consultant Neurologist, and the Sheffield Neurosciences team in this area.

The large, international trial, in which Sheffield was the sole UK site, was the first to show that disability in patients with MS could be halted and potentially reversed using stem cell therapies most often used to treat blood and bone marrow cancer patients.

More recently his research has focused on progressing a world-first study, ‘Star-MS’. Funded by funded by a National Institute for Health and Care Research (NIHR) and Medical Research Council (MRC) partnership and sponsored by Sheffield Teaching Hospitals, the ‘Star-MS’ trial aims to improve outcomes for patients with ‘aggressive’ relapsing-remitting MS by comparing stem cell transplantation against four highly effective drugs for MS.

Once complete, the ‘Star-MS’ study findings could see stem cell transplantation offered on the NHS as a first line treatment to severe MS patients with the relapsing remitting form of the disease instead of only when other treatments have failed.

Professor John Snowden, Consultant Haematologist, Director of the Blood and Marrow Transplant and Cellular Therapy Programme in Sheffield and Honorary Professor at the University of Sheffield, said: “I am very honoured to have received this national recognition within my specialist field of haematology. Autologous stem cell transplantation is an intensive treatment, which has shown remarkable results in stabilising and reducing disability in certain MS patients. Star-MS is an exciting trial that could change the treatment landscape for patients with relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis. I would particularly like to thank colleagues in neurosciences, haematology and the clinical research support teams at Sheffield Teaching Hospitals and the University of Sheffield, along with our patients, national and international collaborators, and funding partners for making this innovative research possible.”

Professor John Snowden’s MS stem cell research has been supported by the Sheffield NIHR Clinical Research Facility, the University of Sheffield’s Clinical Research Trials Unit and the Sheffield Clinical Research and Innovation Office.

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