Professor Flanagan is considered a leading expert in the field of chordoma research, both in the UK and internationally. Chordoma is a primary cancer of the bone that occurs in people of all ages. Due to the size, location and nature of these tumours, surgeons can often find them difficult to remove fully. Despite this, surgery is the mainstay of treatment because the tumours are resistant to radio- and chemotherapy. This project is undertaking lab-based experiments to identify new therapies to treat this disease.
After treatment for bone or soft tissue sarcoma, many patients can be left with difficulties performing physical tasks such as walking or climbing stairs. The extent of these difficulties needs to be accurately recorded in order to know how best to improve the quality of life of these patients after treatment. This project is testing various new movement tracking technologies to see which device could be used to record data from sarcoma patients.
Despite advances in conventional chemotherapy and radiation, complete cures for most cancer types, including sarcoma, remain elusive. The challenge is to develop highly targeted therapies that kill cancer cells but leave normal cells healthy. A big advance in cancer treatment in the past 20 years has been the discovery and application of ‘targeted therapies’. Targeted therapies are medicines that specifically act on parts of the sarcoma cells and either kill the cells or stop them growing.
If one day we can identify individuals at high risk of developing sarcomas this could lead to earlier detection and more effective treatment of these tumours. Sarcoma studies involving families have so far been limited to a lot of work in children, but the 90% of sarcomas that arise in adults have not been represented. The International Sarcoma Kindred Study (ISKS) has been set up to identify, validate and quantify genetic risk in patients with adult-onset sarcoma.
This project is investigating the role of a gene called ‘TAZ’ in rhabdomyosarcoma, looking at how TAZ can be used in diagnosis, how it effects treatment, and if it can be used as a future drug target. It has the potential to improve both the diagnosis and treatment of patients with rhabdomyosarcoma.
Most cells of the human body have structures known as cilia, which are critical for the cell’s ability to sense its external environment. It has been suggested that there is a potential link between these structures and cancer development. In fact, 70-100% of sarcomas show loss of these primary cilia and the structures that give rise to cilia: centrioles. However, the role of cilia, and the genes associated with cilia formation in the development of sarcoma, is as yet unknown.
Pazopanib, a drug that targets a class of genes known as ‘kinases’, was recently approved for the treatment of advanced sarcoma. While some patients respond well to pazopanib, the drug does not work in all cases, meaning that some patients are exposed to the potential side effects of the treatment for little or no benefit. At present, it is challenging to predict who will respond to pazopanib, and it would be helpful to find tumour markers that enable doctors to identify the right patients to administer the drug. Furthermore, because it is unknown as to why some patients do not respond t
This project is using the latest technology to sequence the DNA samples from hundreds of people with sarcoma. By doing this the group hope to identify the genes which make a person susceptible to developing sarcoma. Any genes found can then be used as the basis of future genetic testing to identify patients who are at high risk.