Sarcoma can affect people of any age, and there are some subtypes which are especially common in children and young people. Although there are many types of sarcomas, it is fair to say that for children with sarcomas which have spread or those which have relapsed and come back, treating the sarcoma is far more challenging..
Treatments based on existing medicines have not significantly changed for many years. Recently treatments which stimulate a patient’s own immune system to kill the cancer have been tried, but in many cases these have failed in children. We don’t yet understand why.
How will this project tackle this challenge?
In this project Francis Mussai and his colleagues will take 50 existing samples from children with sarcomas, and study the key immune cells inside the tumours. They will do this by taking microscope slides of the tumour, and cutting out the immune cells with a highly specialised laser. They will then investigate the genetics of these cells to gain some understanding of why these cells are or are not working.
The team includes a range of expertise: a consultant/ clinician-scientist who treats children with sarcomas, a consultant pathologist who diagnoses sarcomas in the hospital laboratory, and laboratory experts in the handling and processing of immune cells and genetic data. Together they have performed similar types of work on adult samples.
What this means for people affected by sarcoma
Although treatments using the immune system are promising in other cancers, there is very little research investigating immunotherapy in children with sarcoma. The project is only a first step, but the information gained will allow our labs and others to more accurately design immune therapies for children with sarcomas in the future.
Recently treatments which stimulate a patient’s own immune system to kill the cancer have been tried, but in many cases these have failed in children. We don’t yet understand why.