One type of treatment for sarcoma is immunotherapy, which helps the immune system fight cancer. It has been very successful in other cancer types, but we haven’t seen the same for many soft tissue sarcoma patients because many do not respond to it.
Dr Ishihara plans to explore how immunotherapy could benefit people with angiosarcoma. This is an especially aggressive subtype with poor survival rates.
How will this project tackle this challenge?
The area around cancer cells is known as the extracellular matrix. The makeup of this area can affect how many cells from the immune system are inside the sarcoma. This is important, because if there aren’t enough immune cells, patients don’t respond very well to immunotherapy. During the project, a PhD student, under Dr Ishihara’s supervision, aims to find a way of getting more immune cells inside the sarcoma by using the extracellular matrix.
To do this, the team will link lots of different proteins together to attract immune cells into sarcomas, and test whether this can ‘switch on’ the immune system for tumours that wouldn’t respond otherwise.
What this means for people affected by sarcoma
New ways of improving immunotherapy are urgently needed for people with soft tissue sarcoma. The team’s approach has never been tried before in soft tissue sarcoma, so they hope this work will be able to get more immune cells into the sarcoma. If they’re successful, the team hope they can take this idea to develop new drugs, to improve the chance that immunotherapy is successful in patients with soft tissue sarcoma.
This project is the 2021 Sayako Grace Robinson PhD Studentship, awarded to one PhD research project every year in memory of Sayako Grace Robinson, who died of angiosarcoma in 2014.
New ways of improving immunotherapy are urgently needed for people with soft tissue sarcoma. The team’s approach has never been tried before in soft tissue sarcoma, so they hope this work will be able to get more immune cells into the sarcoma.