Sarcoma UK is delighted to announce its collaboration with The Sarah Burkeman Trust to provide funding and support to sarcoma research projects.
A talented documentary filmmaker, Sarah Burkeman was diagnosed with an undifferentiated uterine sarcoma in 2013 and sadly passed away three years later at the age of just 34. In the hope for better treatments for sarcoma, Sarah gave a substantial donation in aid of sarcoma research, and now in her memory, her family and friends have established the Sarah Burkeman Trust as a significant new source of funding for UK sarcoma research.
‘We wish to honour our beloved Sarah’s unforgettable spirit of kindness, optimism and her passion for helping people, by helping other young sufferers live the full life she so longed for herself,’ says Charlotte Burkeman, Sarah’s sister and trustee.
As the first step of this collaboration, The Sarah Burkeman Trust will co-fund a new research project with Sarcoma UK. Led by Professor Pascal Meier at the Institute of Cancer Research in London, the project aims to explore new ways of treating undifferentiated pleomorphic sarcoma.
Treatments like chemotherapy damage cancer cells beyond repair. When this happens, the cancer cells enable a ‘self-destruct’ button and die (scientifically called apoptosis). Unfortunately, cancer cells often become resistant to this process, meaning they don’t die and the treatment fails. The team on this project think that killing sarcoma cells in a different way could make treatments like radiotherapy work better. Under the guidance of Professor Meier, a PhD student will investigate a different type of cell death, where the cancer cell bursts open and releases its contents. This process acts a bit like a biological alarm to the patient’s immune system to attack the sarcoma. The team will test this theory in practice, rewiring undifferentiated pleomorphic sarcoma cells in the laboratory to burst open rather than self-destruct. They hope that understanding how this works will lead us to better treatments for undifferentiated pleomorphic sarcoma and other sarcoma subtypes in the future.
“When diagnosed, Sarah was disappointed to learn that the much-publicised cutting-edge immunotherapies offering such promise in other cancers would not have traction against her undifferentiated pleiomorphic sarcoma. The SBT is therefore delighted to help Sarcoma UK fund this work exploring an exciting mechanism to prime the patient’s own immune system to recognise and destroy cancer cells of this and other sarcoma subtypes.
This is the first of several projects to be co-funded by the two charities. The SBT is grateful for Sarcoma UK’s unparalleled expertise and reach to help them identify and fund the most promising and relevant research projects. The SBT has committed up to £200,000 to collaboratively fund sarcoma research through Sarcoma UK. Projects will be selecting for funding in areas that have particular relevance to Sarah’s own cancer journey – gynaecological sarcomas, sarcomas that can particularly affect young people, poorly differentiated sarcomas, and projects focussed on early diagnosis and immunotherapy. Working together in this way means that more funds can be put towards innovative sarcoma research, and ultimately produce vital treatments for patients.
‘Collaboration truly is key to answers in research and that’s why we’re delighted to be working with the Sarah Burkeman Trust’, says Dr Sorrel Bickley, Director of Research Policy and Support at Sarcoma UK. ‘We hope that by joining forces we can accelerate research and help more people affected by sarcoma get the treatments that are so desperately needed’.