Chordoma is a rare and difficult to treat bone cancer. Previous research has shown that a protein called brachyury is active in chordoma cancer cells, and when this protein is not active the cancer cells die. This project is investigating how this protein becomes active in chordoma and potential ways to switch it off.
Drugs which work well for some patients with soft tissue sarcoma can, in other patients, only work for a short time, or not work at all. This project is investigating why different cases of soft tissue sarcoma respond so differently to the same drugs. If you can accurately predict how a patient will respond to treatment, no crucial time is wasted.
Patient experience is central to measuring the quality of care in the NHS, and government policy encourages the use of patient-reported outcomes (PRO) to facilitate patient-clinician communication. However, patients with sarcoma may have experiences which are not reflected accurately with standard or generic PRO measures (PROMs). The aim of this project is to develop a sarcoma-specific PROM (S-PROM) and a strategy to incorporate this into clinical practice.
Patients with inoperable or metastatic soft tissue sarcoma have a poor prognosis with overall survival rates (of approximately a year) when treated with current first line palliative chemotherapy. There has been no change in the standard of care for over 20 years. Improved outcomes could be achieved by identifying biomarkers that can select soft tissue sarcoma patients most likely to benefit from current and novel therapies.
Myxofibrosarcomas are cancers that most commonly develop in the limbs. Surgery is the main treatment but because of the way these cancers grow, it is a challenge to successfully remove them. Unlike other cancers that are easily visible to the surgeon, myxofibrosarcomas often infiltrate nearby tissues making it difficult to accurately assess how much cancer is present. There is a risk that some cancer is left behind after surgery, and this may result in a poorer outcome for the patient.
Cancer is caused by mutations (or mistakes) in DNA – a person’s biological instruction manual. Some of these mutations are specific for certain cancer types and are therefore useful to make specific diagnoses and in some instances to determine the likelihood of a cancer becoming more aggressive in behaviour. There have been recent studies, albeit in small sample numbers that have discovered a spectrum of specific mutations in a rare form of cancer called malignant peripheral nerve sheath tumours (MPNSTs).
Sarcomas are difficult to treat and there is an urgent need to develop more effective therapies. Like other cancers, sarcomas, develop blood vessels that ‘feed’ them with oxygen and nutrients, and allow their growth and spread. Several drugs have been developed that specifically target and damage these blood vessels and some of these drugs are now being used to treat sarcoma. While some patients clearly benefit from this type of therapy others don’t, making it difficult to tailor treatments to the needs of individual patients.
Magnetic nanoparticles will produce heat if exposed to an alternating magnetic field. If magnetic nanoparticles can get inside a tumour, an alternating magnetic field can be applied so that the particles heat up and the tumour cells are killed. This project investigated two different ways to deliver nanoparticles into the tumour using mesenchymal stem cells. One worked, one didn’t, and the group has now secured future funding to keep investigating the method that proved successful.
Rhabdomyosarcoma is a muscle cancer that occurs in children. Previous research has shown that activation of a protein called YAP is a key cause of rhabdomyosarcoma, however how activation occurs is still unknown. This project is investigating how activation of YAP happens, and also if the protein has the potential to be used as a drug target. If we can understand how YAP turns on, we can work out how to turn it off.