Researcher in lab
Friday, February 28, 2020

Sarcoma UK welcomes the news that Cancer Research UK is investing £2.5 million into sarcoma research.

The funding is part of the Cancer Research UK Accelerator Award programme, which provides £27.4 million of funding for a range of international research projects. The projects will focus overall on developing tools and resources to improve scientists’ understanding of cancer, including rare and hard to treat cancers like sarcoma.

Dr Robin Jones at the Royal Marsden NHS Foundation Trust and the Institute of Cancer Research (ICR), London will co-ordinate a network of researchers from across the UK, Europe and USA investigating high-risk soft tissue sarcomas.

This is the first opportunity of its kind for teams from fields as diverse as pathology, artificial intelligence, oncology and radiology to collaborate together on a single project.

They aim to produce a standardised data platform that can be used to predict patient’s response to preoperative treatment and develop biomarkers (identifiers) for sarcoma. This will be the most ambitious and comprehensive effort into understanding this area of sarcoma treatment to date.

Preoperative, or neoadjuvant, therapy is treatment given before surgery to reduce the size of tumours and usually involves chemotherapy and radiotherapy. However, the current ‘one size fits all’ approach to this method of treatment has limited success. Long-term survival for sarcoma patients is poor compared to more common cancers with only 55% surviving beyond 5 years.

By investigating the biology and heterogeneity (the differing characteristics) of high-risk soft tissue sarcomas, this programme of research will develop methods for identifying the best treatment options for individual patients. The funding will support open sharing of clinical data, biological samples and digital pathology, as well as developing computational models to assist drug development. The development of these open access resources and digital tools willhelp facilitate faster and more accurate diagnosis for sarcoma patients, ultimately leading to better chances of successful treatment.

Sarcoma UK is committed to funding research into better and kinder methods to diagnose and treat all types of sarcoma and has been supporting sarcoma research at the Institute of Cancer Research and numerous other institution across the UK since 2009.

Richard Davidson, Chief Executive of Sarcoma UK, said:

‘It’s hugely exciting to see this major new investment by Cancer Research UK which will drive forwards progress in sarcoma. This is a welcome opportunity for the sarcoma research community to bring together expertise and diverse technologies to lay the foundations for developing more targeted and effective treatments.’

Dr Sorrel Bickley, Director of Research and Policy at Sarcoma UK, said:  

‘The Accelerator Award will deepen the research community’s understanding of sarcoma and ultimately help bring sarcoma patients closer to new treatments. The lack of progress in treatment development over the past two decades has been disappointing and it's ultimately sarcoma patients who feel the impact of this. It's fantastic to see Cancer Research UK investing in expanding understanding in sarcoma and other rare cancers.’

The teams involved in the research led by the ICR are based at University of Birmingham, NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde, The Queen Elizabeth Hospital, University of Edinburgh, Fondazione IRCCS - Istituto Nazionale dei Tumori – Milano, and Instituto de Biomedicina de Sevilla. They will be investigating four subtypes of soft tissue sarcomas:

  • Differentiated liposarcoma
  • Synovial sarcoma  
  • Malignant peripheral nerve sheath tumour (MPNST)
  • Vascular sarcomas