Northern Institute for Cancer Research

Staff Profile

Professor Stephen O'Brien

Professor of Haematology


Stephen O'Brien is Professor of Haematology at Newcastle University and Honorary Consultant in Haematology at the Newcastle Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust. Following graduation and internal medical experience in Manchester, his training in haematology was undertaken at the Hammersmith Hospital in London where he subsequently completed his PhD under Professor John Goldman. He then worked in Cardiff before settling in Newcastle.


He treated the first UK patients to receive Imatinib in September 1999, and continues to be closely involved with ongoing trials with this agent, as well as the newer Tyrosine Kinase Inhibitors.

He is the Chief Investigator for the National Cancer Research Network’s SPIRIT trials in Chronic Myeloid Leukaemia (, involving about 2,000 patients in 150 UK hospitals.

He is a member of the European Leukaemia Network, a member of NICE Technology Appraisal Committee C and co-chair of the North of England Cancer Drug Fund.


  1. Clinical trials of imatinib mesylate in CML and other Ph-positive leukaemias. I was the first UK investigator to use this agent and am a member (one of four) of the Study Management Committee for the 0106 (IRIS) study comparing imatinib with IFN and Ara-C in 1106 patients.
  2. Clinical trials of imatinib in combination with other agents. I have been the principal investigator for the first combination study of imatinib with interferon-alpha (
  3. International lead of phase III SPIRIT studies in CML ( 810 patients, 153 sites.
  4. Clinical trials of novel signal transduction inhibitors e.g.  farnesyl transterase inhibitors, abl/src kinase inhibitors.
  5. Developing pharmacogenomic/pharmacoproteomic approaches to predict response to therapy.
  6. Pharmacokinetic studies in liaison with Northern Institute of Cancer Research.
  7. Monitoring of minimal residual disease in CML patients treated with imatinib.
  8. Using novel technologies such as dHPLC and Sequenom to evaluate imatinib resistance mechanisms.
  9. Development of web-based applications for clinical trial project management.