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Immunology pioneer receives global recognition for major contribution to haematology research

Published: 13 December 2018
Freda Stevenson with Peter Johnson
Professor Freda Stevenson receives the Henry M Stratton Medal from Professor Peter Johnson.

World-leading immunologist, Professor Freda Stevenson from the University of Southampton and University Hospital Southampton NHS Foundation Trust, has become the first British recipient of the prestigious Henry M. Stratton Medal for her highly influential contribution to haematology research.

The Medal, awarded by The American Society of Haematology (ASH), recognises Professor Stevenson’s role at the forefront of cancer immunology research for over 40 years, where she has led, shaped and continues to pioneer ground-breaking research in understanding how to engage the immune system in the fight against lymphoma, for which Southampton is now widely recognised.

“It is a pleasure to be recognised by the ASH community,” said Professor Stevenson, a group leader at Southampton’s ground-breaking Centre for Cancer Immunology. “Research in basic science continues to underpin clinical progress, and I am proud to have contributed to this interface in haematology. The international community, particularly in the US, look to Southampton to see what’s going on in research and clinical studies in lymphoma. This award is a good example of how we are recognised and I’m pleased to receive it.”                                                    

Professor Stevenson is highly regarded for her pioneering work in the biology of B-cell malignancies, such as lymphoma and chronic lymphocytic leukaemia (CLL). She is credited with numerous contributions to the field, including the discovery that CLL consists of two significantly different subsets, one of which is associated with more rapid disease progression. This knowledge currently serves as a major indicator of prognosis and has also offered targets for drug therapies that are now demonstrating clinical efficacy. The publication of this work has been cited 1,886 times and earned Professor Stevenson the Rai-Binet Medal from the International Workshop on Chronic Lymphocytic Leukaemia.

In addition, she was the first to propose and test an anti-CD38 monoclonal antibody treatment for patients with multiple myeloma, the results of which were published in Blood and formed the preliminary basis for the development of the drug that is today known as daratumumab. Her other notable contributions include the discovery of a lymphoma-specific sugar target or “Achilles heel” of follicular lymphoma on B-cell receptors, which may be a target for future therapy.

Professor Stevenson also designed gene-based vaccines that work against tumour antigens to help provide long-term protection against cancer relapse. While initially used to treat lymphoma, this strategy is now being tested in solid tumours. For this work, Professor Stevenson was awarded the European Haematology Association’s Jean Bernard Lifetime Achievement Award. 

Professor Tim Elliott, Director of the Centre for Cancer Immunology at the University of Southampton said: “I am delighted to see Freda’s outstanding research in immunology and haematology recognised at such a high level. I had the privilege of doing my PhD training in Southampton with the Stevensons (Freda and her husband George) in the early 80’s and learned from her the importance of scientific precision and scholarship and how great ideas can be put into practice.”

Professor Peter Johnson, Professor of Medical Oncology at the University added: “Freda Stevenson’s work has been at the forefront of research in immunology and haematology. She has made original discoveries which have been of huge help to patients.  It is fantastic to see this recognised by our colleagues internationally, and a great honour for Southampton.”

The Henry M Stratton Medal is named after the late Henry Maurice Stratton, co-founder of Grune and Stratton, the medical publishing house that first published ASH’s journal Blood.

 

Read our Q&A with Professor Stevenson.

 

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Professor Stevenson has been awarded the Henry M Stratton Medal in recognition of her pioneering work in the biology of B-cell malignancies, such as lymphoma and chronic lymphocytic leukaemia (CLL).
Slideshow image
World-leading immunologist, Professor Freda Stevenson, is the first British recipient of the prestigious Henry M. Stratton Medal for her highly influential contribution to haematology research.

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