Dr Carsten Hansen was awarded funding during our 'Strictly Research' competition as part of our 2017 Bone Cancer Conference

Dr Carsten Hansen was recently awarded the Chancellor’s Fellowship and a PhD studentship with The University of Edinburgh. This award allowed Dr Hansen to set up his laboratory and collect data to take forward into his ‘Strictly Research’ project. The results gained from this project with the Bone Cancer Research Trust will form the basis of his PhD studentship, which has the ultimate aim of developing new treatments for osteosarcoma patients.

Background of the research:

In solid cancers, such as osteosarcoma, there is increased fluid pressure within the tumour mass that favours disease progression and reduces positive patient outcomes.

It is known that increased pressure, by compressing the blood vessels, decreases the access of chemotherapy agents to tumours. Interestingly, it also affects the behaviour of cancer cells, leading to rapid growth, decreased cell death and an increased likelihood of spread to other parts of the body. This change in cancer cell behaviour seems to be maintained once the cells have spread from the primary cancer.

A group of proteins which are responsible for communication inside the cancer cell, known as the Hippo Pathway, are highly altered in osteosarcoma and their activation leads to increased cell growth and metastatic spread.

The objective of this research project was to investigate if a connection exists between the activation of the Hippo Pathway and elevated tumour pressure, A second objective was to determine if targeting this pathway has potential for treating patients with osteosarcoma.

Results of the study:

A hydrostatic pump system was built for studying the effects of pressure on the osteosarcoma cells grown in the laboratory and to see if it resulted in the activation of the Hippo Pathway proteins.

The results indicated that indeed increased fluid pressure activated the proteins in the Hippo Pathway. However, additional research is needed to examine the precise impact that elevated hydrostatic pressure has on the behaviour of osteosarcoma cells, as well as the precise biological mechanisms controlling these changes.

Further studies will examine if drugs that inactivate the Hippo Pathway are more/less efficient under different pressure environments. If successful, this research can provide important information to support the potential of using anti-Hippo Pathway drugs to treat osteosarcoma.

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