Last year, Dr Green and Dr Finegan collaboratively made an important research breakthrough that could lead to kinder treatments for osteosarcoma patients and could stop the spread of osteosarcoma. In this exclusive interview, Dr Green explains more about why collaboration is important and how our Infrastructure Grants are supporting new breakthroughs like this one.
Can you tell us a bit about yourself and why you decided to carry out research into primary bone cancer?
I’m currently a lecturer and researcher at Norwich Medical School, University of East Anglia. I trained in molecular genetics at Addenbrooke’s Hospital in Cambridge before obtaining my PhD in molecular biology at UEA. My research combines genetics, cell and molecular biology with bioinformatics to study gene silencing in primary bone cancer. In 2019, I was listed as a Universities UK Top 100 People “The Nation’s Lifesavers”. In 2020, I joined the Board of Trustees for Bone Cancer Research Trust. I bring knowledge and expertise to the Bone Cancer Research Trust and most importantly I have personally experienced the impact primary bone can have as my best friend passed away from primary bone cancer.
Why do you think working in collaboration is so important?
The five-year survival rate for primary bone cancer is around 40%. The twenty-year survival rate for breast cancer is 70%. The difference between five and twenty years and 40% and 70% is research and collaboration.
Cancer is a complex and multistage genetic disease that is the product of DNA damage, abnormal gene expression/regulation, protein production plus abnormal metabolic processing in a single cell. Once this single cell has evaded immune system detection, a tumour forms, where there is support from “hijacked” neighbouring cells. Then there is progression to spread to other parts of the body using newly developed connections with other cells and even the immune system itself. Unravelling the complexity of this extremely intricate biology is no task for one person or one institution.
Teams of experts/institutions operating within individual niche expertise must work together to put together the pieces of nature’s broken puzzle. Only then we will see the “big picture” in order to correct the broken pieces, develop novel treatments and significantly improve survival.
For primary bone cancer, this means investing money into research, exciting ideas plus new technologies – the Bone Cancer Research Trust has spent over £4 million where larger cancer charities and pharma have not.
How do our Infrastructure Grants facilitate collaboration?
Funding provided by the Bone Cancer Research Trust provides the bone tumour centres with the necessary resources and enables biobank experts to collect, store and distribute patient material. Before these grants and collaborations, patient material was rarely collected and stored. Experts down the line had limited samples to work on so we did not know what to target or how to make new treatments. Because of collaborations between the bone tumour centres, researchers and patients, who are making an invaluable contribution as donors, we are already delivering significant breakthroughs.
Find out more about how the Infrastructure Grants have supported this recent breakthrough, by clicking below.