A photo of researcher Will English
Principal Investigators: 

University of Sheffield

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One of the cell types found in a sarcoma tumour is a fibroblast. Fibroblasts are known to be very important in the growth and spread of other cancers, but much less is known about how they work in sarcoma. This project will investigate the role of fibroblasts in soft tissue sarcoma. The more we know about how fibroblasts affect the growth and spread of sarcoma, the better we can fight it.

Characterisation of the role of sarcoma-associated fibroblasts in soft tissue sarcoma development

The tumour mass of soft tissue sarcomas contains many types of cells in addition to the cancerous sarcoma cells. The other cells are recruited from the surrounding normal tissue by the cancerous cells to promote tumour growth and spread to other sites within the body.

One of these cell types, called a fibroblast has been found within soft tissue sarcoma tumours, we know very little about what they do.

Fibroblasts are known to be very important in the growth and spread of breast, prostate and pancreatic cancer, with new therapies are emerging to target them. In these cancers, fibroblasts make proteins that glue the tumour together as well as signalling the cancer cell grow and spread faster. They have also been shown to stop the immune system from killing cancer cells.

Fibroblasts look very similar to some sarcoma cancer cells, making them difficult to study. This project will develop a new technique to specifically ‘tag’ fibroblasts and therefore easy to detect. They will be removed from the tumour and compared to fibroblasts from other cancers to compare of they have similar properties. We will then adapt the technique so the fibroblasts produce a toxin to cause cell death. This will allow us to find out if killing fibroblasts stops the tumour from growing, and will provide data that will help us develop new therapies for the treatment of soft tissue sarcoma.

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