Marking 100 years since American pathologist James Ewing first described what we now call Ewing sarcoma (in his honour), the Bone Cancer Research Trust and Professor Sue Burchill from the University of Leeds hosted a virtual research conference. Our aims were to celebrate the research that has taken place since the discovery by Professor Ewing and to plan the next steps for translating science into the clinic, to meet the needs of families affected by this devastating cancer.
The International Ewing Sarcoma Research Symposium brought together over 120 researchers from across the world. It showcased current translational research, acknowledged challenges and identified avenues for future research and collaboration.
The meeting included
presentations from scientists working on the identification of the genetic and epigenetic
drivers of Ewing sarcoma, particularly those that may contribute to and be
biomarkers of metastasis and recurrence. Validation and qualification of these candidate
biomarkers will help doctors to stratify patients for more appropriate management
and personalised treatment. For those patients that initially present with localised
disease but suffer relapse, this will be particularly important and could lead
to rapid improvements of outcome.
Sixty years after the description by James Ewing, it was realised that there was a family of tumours that shared common characteristic peculiarities in their pathology and cellular DNA (the EWSR1-ETS gene fusions). The presence of these EWSR1-ETS gene fusions is now the international gold standard for diagnosis of Ewing sarcoma . Identifying the secondary genetic lesions and epigenetic changes that drive progression and relapse is a priority to discover more effective treatments and improve outcomes.
Dr Didier Surdez (Institut Curie, Paris, France) delivered a fascinating lecture on the role of STAG2 and genetic diversity in Ewing sarcoma. He explained why drugs that can inactivate the STAG2 protein (epigenetic modulators) are attractive candidate therapeutic targets and the challenges of targeted therapy in Ewing sarcoma patients.
The afternoon session focussed-in on targeted therapeutic strategies. Professor Jeff Toretsky (Georgetown University, Washington DC, USA), kicked off the afternoon with a presentation summarising the journey from test tube discoveries in the lab to the clinic, and the development of TK-216 (which is now in Phase II clinical trials in the USA for the treatment of patients with Ewing sarcoma).
Eleven translational researchers (tomorrows’ leaders) presented their exciting research discoveries; speakers were selected from peer-reviewed submitted abstracts from researchers from the UK, Spain, Germany and the USA. At the end of the afternoon, Professor Sir Alan Craft and Professor Bernadette Brenan chaired a discussion session about the current and future challenges we face to improve outcomes for patients with Ewing sarcoma, and how we can expedite the transfer of science to the clinic.
The meeting concluded with the announcement of a new Bone Cancer Research Trust grant call for Ewing sarcoma research. The successful grants, provided in co-operation with the Ewing's Sarcoma Research Trust, will finance research focused on translational scientific research with a clear line of sight towards patient benefit.
Thank you to all the speakers and participants of this innovative symposium. We hope to see you again next year.