Dr Cross explains more about our newly funded research project, which for the first time, will explore how mutations in chondrosarcoma change over time and how this relates to disease progression and dissemination throughout the body. This pioneering research project has been made possible through the very generous act of a chondrosarcoma patient who gifted their body for research.
Could you briefly comment on the subject of cancer evolution and progression, particularly in the context of chondrosarcoma?
All cancers originate from normal cells. The biological changes that create cancers like chondrosarcoma tend to accrue over periods of time, meaning that as the disease develops normal cells are said to evolve into cancerous ones. Cancerous cells cause disease because they have gained the ability to grow rapidly and spread to other parts of the body. It is critical that we understand how cancers acquire these abilities because this opens the door to a number of possibilities, including being able to understand why some patients develop serious types of disease, while others do not. With this knowledge we can offer more accurate prognoses to patients and work out the best ways to treat this disease
Can you tell us about the project and its aims?
To date chondrosarcoma has been a challenge to study, and unfortunately this means that we still do not understand how the disease evolves into its most serious form, known as metastatic disease. In this project we are particularly interested in the order that specific mutations appeared during the lifetime of this tumour. This will enable us to understand whether serious forms of chondrosarcoma are there from the outset of the disease or evolve slowly over time. We are focusing on a single patient with metastatic chondrosarcoma in this first instance and the data we generate will be extremely useful.
What difference could this project make for chondrosarcoma patients in the future?
This chondrosarcoma study is the first of its kind and will reveal details of how serious forms of the disease evolve. Our results will indicate whether the disease recently became serious or was already serious some time ago, before we could detect it. Eventually we might be able to change some aspects of how we monitor patients with chondrosarcoma and better identify those with diseases that will evolve into serious ones.
How does this project relate to previously Bone Cancer Research Trust funded chondrosarcoma research by Prof Flanagan?
The Flanagan laboratory has a long history of studying sarcomas and particularly chondrosarcoma. With her team Prof. Flanagan has previously identified the IDH1/2 mutations in cartilaginous tumours, which are now recognised as being characteristic of nearly 70% of these tumours. Her work through biobanking samples for nearly 20 years has also contributed to identifying other common genetic alterations in this tumour. This work has resulted in a study involving colleagues across the UK – funded by the Bone Cancer Research Trust – and should reveal if a simple blood test can be used to offer prognoses to patients with chondrosarcoma. In this new study we will build upon these previous findings by focusing on the most aggressive form of chondrosarcoma and will generate new data that describes exactly when the mutations appeared during the disease.
How important is the funding provided by the Bone Cancer Research Trust?
Without exaggeration, this study could not happen without the support of the Bone Cancer Research Trust. Although the cost of scientific experiments like these has dropped dramatically over the past few years, detailed studies of this kind still require significant funding which has been generously provided by the Bone Cancer Research Trust.
What would you say to the Bone Cancer Research Trust supporters who are raising funds for research?
Thank you for all of your hard work and contributions. Many of you know people who have been affected by bone sarcoma, and I think it is amazing that so many selflessly donate their tissue for research. The funds that were previously raised for biobanking tumour samples and generating of genomic data are a legacy to all those who have suffered. Funds from the Bone Cancer Research Trust allow researchers like me to continue our fight against this terrible disease. Rest assured that your efforts will make a huge difference to the lives of people with chondrosarcoma.