The Bone Cancer Research Trust Early Career Fellowship is an award that aims to support talented primary bone cancer researchers for 5 years in their transition from postdoctoral researchers, or newly appointed faculty members, to independent investigators in the field.

With this brand-new grant, we have awarded £500,000 of funding over five years to Dr Lucia Cottone at University College London.

Through her fellowship, Dr Cottone hopes to identify the cellular events that cause osteosarcoma cells to become dormant or 'sleepy', and therefore resistant to chemotherapy. With this understanding she hopes to find ways of preventing this behaviour, by either killing the cells or pulling them out of their dormant state, to help them regain sensitivity to chemotherapy.

This will be achieved by growing patient-derived osteosarcoma cells in the laboratory and using cutting-edge techniques to investigate their responsiveness to chemotherapy at single cell level an approach that has not yet been explored for osteosarcoma. Dr Cottone will also test a set of drugs that are predicted to target dormant cancer cells in order to determine if they can enhance their sensitivity to chemotherapy.

Dr Zoe Davison, Head of Research, Information & Support at the Bone Cancer Research Trust, said:

During their fellowship, researchers are expected to develop their independence, collaborative network and reputation. We hope that this award will retain the brightest minds in the field of primary bone cancer, expand our research community within the UK, and bring us one step closer to a cure.

Kathleen Kane, Research & Engagement Officer at the Bone Cancer Research Trust, said:

We're delighted to award Dr Cottone with our first ever Fellowship Grant to investigate why osteosarcoma cells are susceptible to becoming resistant to chemotherapy. We hope her findings will lead to both kinder and more effective treatment options for osteosarcoma patients, and we would like to say a huge thank you to our community for making this research possible.

What are the aims of the project?

The information gathered from this research will help to:

  • Predict which tumours are likely to be resistant to chemotherapy
  • Improve the effectiveness of chemotherapy
  • Work towards better outcomes for patients with osteosarcoma

How will it benefit primary bone cancer patients?

The most immediate outcome of this work will be to improve our understanding of how osteosarcoma cells become resistant to chemotherapy. This will hopefully lead to the identification of biomarkers which can then be used to identify individuals who are likely to be resistant to the treatment.

The drug screen may also lead to the identification of new therapies that can be used to improve the effectiveness of chemotherapy, potentially leading to clinical trials in this area.

This work will also provide a unique source of new and reliable experimental systems by growing patient-derived osteosarcoma cells in the laboratory, which will be made available to other scientists for future osteosarcoma research.

How can dormant cells cause resistance to chemotherapy?

Chemotherapeutic agents used to treat patients with osteosarcoma are designed to kill rapidly dividing cancer cells. The response to this toxic treatment, however, is poor in almost half of treated patients.

Research into lung cancer and melanoma has shown that cancer cells can avoid the toxic effects of chemotherapy by becoming dormant, or 'sleepy', and no longer dividing.

Preliminary data obtained by Dr Cottone has shown that osteosarcomas that respond poorly to chemotherapy contain greater numbers of dormant cells.

Find out more about the research project below:

Find out more