Cancer is caused by modification of the DNA, known as genetic alterations, which cause the cell to grow uncontrollably at a faster pace than normal.
Each cell in the body has approximately 22,000 genes and analysing each of these genes, in thousands of cells, to determine any alterations is an enormous project. This is why the ICGC (International Cancer Genome Consortium) was set up, allowing clinicians, pathologists and scientists to work together to study the genes of 50 different cancer types. Within this, a bone tumour project was set up, allowing the ICGC to study the genomic profile of 500 primary bone cancers.
In the hope to improve the findings of the ICGC project further, and reveal the biological relevance of the determined genetic alterations, Professor Flanagan generated disease models in the form of osteosarcoma cell-lines to study alongside the bone tumour project.
Cell-lines are a population of cells which have been cultured in the laboratory from a single tumour cell. They allow many aspects of the tumour to be distinguished as well as analysing the effect of drugs on the tumour. The osteosarcoma cell-lines generated by Professor Flanagan and her team will be submitted to the ICGC to aid their investigation into osteosarcoma. This will enhance their findings, pin-point the genetic abnormalities which are important in driving the cancer and investigate which alterations could be targeted with drugs.
The funding provided by the Bone Cancer Research Trust aided the establishment of these cell-lines by providing the correct equipment and reagents required by the team at University College London. This fed into and increased the power of the larger bone tumour project carried out by the ICGC.