As part of the Bone Cancer Research Trust’s growing research programme, we are excited to introduce our first Early Career Fellow, Dr Lucia Cottone.

The Bone Cancer Research Trust Early Career Fellowship is a personal 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.

"During their fellowship, researchers are expected to develop their independence, collaborative network and reputation as specialists in their field. Our hope is that this award will retain the brightest minds in the field of primary bone cancer, expanding our research community within the UK, bringing us one step closer to a cure”

Dr Zoe Davison, Head of Research support & Information, the Bone Cancer Research Trust.

Chemotherapeutic agents used to treat patients with osteosarcoma, are designed to kill rapidly dividing cancer cells. The response to this toxic treatment is however poor in nearly half of the treated patients, contributing significantly to why survival of individuals with osteosarcoma has not improved in the last 40 years when chemotherapy was introduced.

Research in lung cancer and melanoma has shown that cancer cells can avoid the effect of chemotherapy by becoming ‘dormant’ (‘sleepy’), no longer dividing. Preliminary data obtained by Dr Cottone at University College London show that osteosarcomas that respond poorly to chemotherapy contain greater numbers of dormant cells.

What does Lucia hope to find out?

As part of her Fellowship Lucia hopes to identify the cellular events that cause osteosarcoma cells to become dormant, and therefore resistant to chemotherapy. By understanding how this occurs, we should be able to develop ways of preventing the cells from becoming dormant, killing them or pulling them out of their dormant state so that they will re-gain sensitivity to chemotherapy.

This will be achieved by growing patient-derived osteosarcoma cells in the laboratory and utilising cutting edge techniques to investigate their response to chemotherapy at the single cell level – an approach that has not been explored before in osteosarcoma. Lucia will also test a panel of drugs/compounds predicted to target dormant cancer cells, to determine if these can make osteosarcoma cells more sensitive to chemotherapy.

The information acquired from both approaches will help to:

  • predict which tumours are likely to be resistant to chemotherapy
  • improve the efficacy of chemotherapy
  • eventually achieve better outcomes for patients with osteosarcoma.

How will this project benefit primary bone cancer patients?

The main and most immediate outcome of this work will be to maximise our understanding of how osteosarcoma cells become resistant to chemotherapy. This will likely lead to the identification of biomarkers which can be used to identify individuals who would be resistant to therapy. The drug screen will lead to the identification of new therapies which can be used to improve the efficacy of chemotherapy, and this will lead to clinical trials.

This work will also provide a unique resource of novel and reliable ways to grow patient-derived osteosarcoma cells in the laboratory: these will be made available to the community for additional osteosarcoma research.

"It is a huge honour to be awarded this funding and to become part of the BCRT family. Thanks to this fellowship I will lead a new and exciting project with the support of people who have dedicated their lives to fighting primary bone cancer by the side of those affected including many young people. As a mother of three, this awareness motivates me and reminds me of the importance of each daily progress of my research. This fellowship is a crucial steppingstone towards becoming an independent scientist and a leader in the field of primary bone cancer research"

Dr Lucia Cottone, Bone Cancer Research Trust Early Career Fellow.

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