Thanks to the support of our recent appeal we are delighted to announce the funding of an additional PhD Studentship Grant to Dr Robert Falconer at the University of Bradford.
The four year project costing £100,000 is aiming to dramatically reduce the severe side effects of Methotrexate - a chemotherapy agent used in the treatment of osteosarcoma. Current side effects include low blood counts, hair loss, mouth sores/ ulcers, nausea and diarrhoea. It is also hoped that this pioneering project could see the increased efficiency of the drug and improve it's ability to treat osteosarcoma.
Of the project, Dr Zoe Davison, our Head of Research and Information said:
If Dr Falconer’s research is successful the project could proceed to clinical trial phases. Ultimately, we could potentially see a new Methotrexate drug into mainstream healthcare which is a more effective and efficient attack against osteosarcoma tumours with dramatically reduced side effects. This will revolutionise patient care and would dramatically change views towards Methotrexate application.
We spoke with Dr Falconer about what difference he sees this research project making to patients...
How important will this project be to osteosarcoma patients and what difference do you think it will make?
We believe our project has the potential to make a big difference to osteosarcoma treatment, to patients and their families alike.
We’re focusing our attention on Methotrexate, a chemotherapy drug routinely used to treat osteosarcoma patients. While Methotrexate is a useful drug, it also acts on normal cells in the body, which means another drug (leucovorin) also needs to be given to minimise these unwanted effects. The drug is also metabolised quickly by the body, needs to be given in very high doses and can cause potentially serious side-effects, to the liver and kidneys in particular. As a result, children receiving Methotrexate need to be prepared before they can receive the drug with intravenous fluids.
We have developed a way to selectively target toxic cancer drugs like Methotrexate to osteosarcoma tumours, where they are selectively released, which reduces potential side-effects for the patient. We will chemically modify Methotrexate so that it will be inactive in the bloodstream and normal tissues, until it reaches the tumour where it will be ‘activated’ by proteins called ‘matrix metalloproteinases’, or MMPs, which cancer cells possess but healthy cells do not. These MMPs should target the methotrexate to the tumour, without causing too many side effects, but before we can test this approach in patients we need to do work in the laboratory.
If we’re successful in our goal to develop a new methotrexate ‘prodrug’, it could make a big difference to patients and their families due to the reduced toxicity to normal cells and to the incidence of side-effects. Also, the technology has the potential to actually deliver more drug directly into the tumour where it is really needed, so there is also a possibility for the treatment to be more successful, improving quality of life and outcomes for osteosarcoma patients.
How important is this project?
At the Institute of Cancer Therapeutics, we are passionate about tackling cancers such as osteosarcoma that the bigger pharmaceutical companies are perhaps not so focused upon. The important work carried out by charities such as the Bone Cancer Research Trust is so important to us being able to carry out the research we do. We are excited to have received support from the Bone Cancer Research Trust and from the University of Bradford to enable us to embark on this work, and for the chance to develop a new Methotrexate drug.
What message would you give to our supporters who have made this grant award possible?
We would like to sincerely thank all those supporters who have donated towards the appeal. Every penny will go towards the vital experiments that will enable us to test the new Methotrexate prodrug that we will develop, and get us one step closer to being able to realise our goal of a better, more-tolerated, more effective treatment for patients.
The Bone Cancer Research Trust would like to thank The Balcombe Charitable Trust, The Three Ells Trust, The Anthony Pilcher Bone Cancer Trust and all our supporters who have donated and made this breakthrough project possible. We would also like to publicly thank Pete Lloyd (pictured below with his family) for believing in this project, sharing his inspirational story and for leading our recent urgent appeal. Pete was diagnosed with osteosarcoma at the age of 30 and underwent a gruelling 8 months of chemotherapy treatment which included Methotrexate.