Chislehurst professor accepts one of the most prestigious awards in international medicine

PUBLISHED: 07:00 14 December 2018

Graham Hughes has accepted the Hamdan Award for Medical Research Excellence. Photo: The PHA group/Miroslav Cik

Graham Hughes has accepted the Hamdan Award for Medical Research Excellence. Photo: The PHA group/Miroslav Cik

Miroslav Cik

A man from Chislehurst has recently become the recipient of this year’s hugely prestigious Hamdan Award for Medical Research Excellence.

Head of the London Lupus Centre at London Bridge Hospital, professor Graham Huges has been recognised for his contribution to Rheumatological disorders, and is credited with the discovery of the blood clotting disease Hughes Syndrome.

The syndrome was diagnosed 25 years ago, and professor Hughes has been invited to accept one of the most significant awards in international medicine, granted by the deputy ruler of Dubai, Sheikh Hamdan bin Rashid Al Maktom.

Sheikh Hamdan honoured Prof Hughes in a grand ceremony in Dubai on December 12, alongside 15 other prestigious personalities from the USA, Switzerland, Jordan, Sudan, United Arab Emirates, and Saudi Aribia.

First identified in 1983, Hughes Syndrome has been coined ‘the most important medical disorder that you’ve probably never heard of.’ When asked to describe the condition, professor Hughes explained that the syndrome affected more women than men.

“The condition causes the blood to have an increased tendency to clot or ‘sludge’,” he said.

“The two organs most sensitive are the brain (leading to features including migraine, balance problems, memory loss and even, if untreated, stroke) and the placenta in pregnancy, leading to recurrent miscarriage and even stillbirth.

Some women with Hughes Syndrome suffer as many as 10-12 miscarriages – preventable.”

Also known as ‘sticky blood’, it is a disorder of the immune system which causes an increased risk of blood clotting in two particular organs, the brain and placenta.

This excessive clotting can lead to a wide variety of undesirable conditions, including stroke, miscarriage, memory loss, seizures, and fractures.

However, thanks to professor Hughes’ work, the condition can now be easily identified through a simple blood test, and treated with low dose aspirin or stronger forms of anti-clotting drugs.

Between 1983 and 1985, professor Hughes and his team gathered enough evidence to publish a series of papers – one of which appeared in the British Medical Journal.

In the twenty five years since these papers identified the condition, the thrombotic disorder has had a major impact on a number of specialities – including cardiology, neurology, and surgery. It has also revolutionised the treatment of women with recurrent miscarriages.

Professor Hughes, who is possibly the only professor in the UK with a syndrome named after him, said: “This honour was totally unexpected, especially as it a truly international award.

“I was especially pleased as it will, I hope, contribute to increasing the awareness of the syndrome.”

When asked what part of his achievement he was most proud of, professor Hughes said: “I suppose the biggest impact of Hughes Syndrome is in obstetrics, where it is now known to be the most commonest, treatable cause of recurrent miscarriage.

My research in this topic goes back to the early 1970’s, when I set up the Lupus clinic in London.

Our work describing the condition was finally published in the British Medical Journal in 1983.”

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