Ewing's sarcoma is a highly aggressive bone tumour which predominantly affects children, adolescents and young adults. It is a tumour that causes extensive bone destruction and can spread rapidly. The bone destruction in Ewing’s is caused by osteoclasts, specialised bone cells which normally breakdown bone in balance with osteoblasts which build it up This study aims to look more closely at the way Ewing’s cells promote osteoclast formation which then knocks normal bone biology out of kilter, increasing bone destruction.
In humans angiosarcomas are rare, aggressive tumours of blood vessels. Angiogenesis is the process of new blood vessel formation and is controlled by a number of different growth factors. The researchers think it is likely that these growth factors are important in the development of angiosarcoma, and that treatments targeting these factors will be useful for patients with angiosarcoma. Whilst human angiosarcoma is rare the tumour is much more common in dogs and it will be seen by vets in their surgeries when your GP will never see a case.
Liposarcomas are a type of soft tissue sarcoma that arises in fat cells. Well-differentiated (WD) liposarcomas have clear cell walls and a regular appearence under the microscope. De-differentiated (DD) liposarcomas are much messier and irregular. Both are the most frequent subtype of liposarcomas in adults. Well-differentiated liposarcomas can recur looking more like the de-differentiated type. This is associated with increased aggressiveness. In contrast, completely well-differentiated liposarcomas are usually readily curable.
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.
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 based at the University of Aberdeen, but will involve collaborators from London (Institute of Cancer Research) and as far afield as Switzerland (Swiss Institute of Bioinformatics). Rhabdomyosarcomas are cancers where cells resemble dividing muscle cells. These cancers are aggressive and occur mainly in children. In this project, Dr Wackerhage and his team will study a gene called TAZ that they have found to be highly active in rhabdomyosarcomas.
During the project, the team will study various aspects of the relationship between TAZ and rhabdomyosarcoma, including:
This project will be investigating what happens to the key drugs administered to Ewing’s sarcoma patients once they have entered the body – how they are broken down and what factors are important for determining response and toxicity, to gain more information in order to improve treatment strategies. This may be particularly important for teenagers and young adults, the most commonly diagnosed group, as they may handle drugs differently to younger children. Modifying drug doses for different patient groups will allow the achievement of drug exposures which are most likely to be beneficial