Kenneth Rankin and his team hope to tackle some key areas during this project to work towards the goal of improving patient response to treatment.

Background of the research:

During this project, the team from Newcastle and Durham Universities led by Kenneth Rankin aimed to answer some key questions:

1. Some patients who have treatment before surgery do not have a good response to the chemotherapy and/or radiotherapy. How can we identify these patients early?

2. For Ewing’s sarcoma patients, the tumour often shrinks dramatically during chemotherapy, yet some cancer cells may remain where the tumour used to be- how can we spot these on the scans before surgery to make sure they are removed?

3. For patients with tumours in difficult areas like the pelvis or spine, how can we improve surgery to prevent recurrence?

4. Some patients respond well to treatment, but relapse with spread to the lungs- how can we detect this earlier in order to get them back to remission?

At Newcastle University they have been working on a protein which is produced in large amounts by osteosarcoma and Ewing’s sarcoma cells. This enzyme is called membrane type-1 matrix metalloproteinase (MT1-MMP) and is important for enabling osteosarcoma and Ewing’s sarcoma tumours to grow and spread to other areas of the body such as the lungs.

At Durham University, they developed a drug that is made active by the MT1-MMP producing cancer cells. This drug contains an agent that kills the cancer cells, shutting down the blood supply to the tumour. The drug also contains tiny particles of iron which allow the tumour to be seen more clearly during MRI scans This drug is known as a theranostic nanoparticle (TNP).

A collaboration between the two Universities investigated how effective the TNP drug was in shrinking the primary bone tumours, while enhancing tumour imaging.

Results of the study:

The main conclusion from this research was that due to issues with the quality of the batches that they tested, the drug did not work.

A positive conclusion from this work however is that the team developed a new laboratory model of dedifferentiated chondrosarcoma which will be useful for future testing of other drugs. This model will also be useful for assessing special dyes that will make the tumours glow and therefore help with surgery for chondrosarcoma.

The project was funded in 2016

Kenneth Rankin was the winner of the 'Strictly Research Sophie's Award', and will receive additional funding to present his work at a conference in the UK.

Learn more about Strictly Research here.

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