Professor Sue Burchill and her research team in Leeds are working hard to identify new treatment targets that may be used either alone or in combination therapies to treat Ewing sarcoma. This funding from the Bone Cancer Research Trust allowed Professor Burchill to focus on one particular biological factor, referred to as ‘telomerase activity’.
What is Telomerase Activity?
Telomerase activity is one of the most important biological factors in the development of many cancers. In Ewing sarcoma, telomerase is overexpressed when compared to normal, healthy, cells and so is deemed a viable area to investigate. Telomerase stabilises the cancer cell genome and allows the tumour to grow and possibly spread to other areas of the body. Previous research by Professor Burchill showed that telomerase activity may also be contributing to the development of drug resistance in Ewing sarcoma tumours, which is one of the most difficult challenges in regard to successfully treating this form of cancer.
What was the focus of this project?
This project aimed to develop robust techniques which would allow scientists to determine the actviity of telomerase in tumours and inform future work developing new treatments and ways in which to determine a patients prognosis.
This research investigated telomerase activity across tumour samples, determining if its activity is higher in certain cell types or if there is any pattern to its expression. This hoped to identify important targets for the development of new therapeutic strategies while increasing the understanding of Ewing sarcoma and the development of drug resistance in this aggressive disease.
The team hypothesised that decreasing telomerase activity in Ewing sarcoma may reduce the development of drug resistance. Professor Burchill and her team were successful in their project and determined that a larger amount of proliferating cells at diagnosis related to a worse survival aspect for patients. The prognostic significance of this finding has great use in future studies and the simple, low-cost tenchnique developed to determine this should be considered during diagnosis and staging of Ewing sarcoma patients in the future.