Sarcoma-UK funded research has unveiled the first and largest encyclopaedia of key features of soft tissue sarcomas – opening the door to a new era of understanding and treatment.
The findings, published in Nature Communications, will allow researchers to tap into the potential of immunotherapy in sarcoma, identify people at higher risk of relapse and provide new ways to personalise treatments.
The encyclopaedia comprises data from 321 people – including children, teenagers and adults – with 11 different sarcoma subtypes, including leiomyosarcoma, undifferentiated pleiomorphic sarcoma and liposarcoma.
Many of the genes in our bodies contain the instructions for proteins, which perform many critical roles in the body. Most approved cancer drugs work by targeting proteins, so understanding more about the proteins driving sarcoma could lead to new targeted drugs.
The research team analysed patient samples to uncover the ‘proteomic profile’ of the sarcomas – a snapshot of all the different proteins that are being produced within the cancer cells. The team’s analysis revealed that each sarcoma subtype has a unique protein profile.
The team, led by researchers at the Institute of Cancer Research, London, identified some specific groups of proteins that could also be used help predict which tumours are more likely to spread. This could, in the future, pave the way for more tailored treatment for individuals, for example by identifying patients who may benefit from more aggressive treatment.
The new insights have also uncovered new immunotherapy targets, which could ultimately lead to new ways of treating “immune cold” sarcomas. These sarcomas are not properly recognised by the immune system, so they do not respond well to current immune check-point drugs.
‘Our ‘encyclopaedia’ of protein alterations is a vital resource – a Rosetta Stone of sorts that will help us unravel the complex language of sarcoma tumours”, says study lead Dr Paul Huang. “This will allow us to explore new avenues of personalised treatment, offering renewed hope for people with sarcoma. Our findings hold promise for the development of new targeted treatments and immunotherapies that can disrupt the underlying processes driving sarcoma. I am hopeful that this study will lead to improved treatment outcomes and a better quality of life for sarcoma patients.’
Dr Sorrel Bickley, Director of Research, Policy and Support at Sarcoma UK, said:
‘It’s fantastic to see the results of this important study, which gives the sarcoma community vital information about indicators of how sarcomas might grow, spread or respond to treatment. We hope that these findings can now be taken forward into further research to develop the treatments that are so desperately needed.’