UBC researchers awarded more than $1M to tackle aggressive bone cancer in children

Date Posted: 
2020-02-19
Drs Daugaard and Sorensen (source: UBC Faculty of Medicine)

Congratulations to Drs. Sorensen and Daugaard on being awarded the Martha’s Better Ewing Sarcoma Treatment (BEST) Grant from St. Baldrick’s Foundation: $1,297,000 ($975,000 US) over the next three years to tackle Ewing sarcoma, an aggressive bone and soft tissue cancer in children and young adults.

Click here to read the UBC Faculty of Medicine News story; the text is also posted below.

February 19, 2020 - UBC Faculty of Medicine researchers Dr. Poul Sorensen and Dr. Mads Daugaard have been awarded $1,297,000 ($975,000 US) over the next three years to tackle Ewing sarcoma, an aggressive bone and soft tissue cancer in children and young adults.

“In spite of aggressive treatments, survival rates among children and young adults who are diagnosed with Ewing sarcoma, particularly patients with metastatic disease, remain unacceptably low,” says Dr. Sorensen, a professor in the department of pathology and laboratory medicine at UBC and a distinguished scientist at the BC Cancer Research Centre. “Ewing sarcoma is largely resistant to conventional therapies as well as immunotherapy, which is why alternative treatment approaches are sorely needed.”

“Ewing sarcoma is largely resistant to conventional therapies as well as immunotherapy, which is why alternative treatment approaches are sorely needed.”

Dr. Poul Sorensen

Now, with support over the next three years from the St. Baldrick’s Foundation, Dr. Sorensen and Dr. Daugaard, an assistant professor in the department of urologic sciences at UBC, will further their cutting-edge research in hopes of finding new targets to help treat this deadly disease.

“We’re employing several novel strategies to target Ewing sarcoma,” says Dr. Daugaard, who leads the molecular pathology and cell imaging core facility at the Vancouver Prostate Centre. “The first of these strategies is an exciting form of immunotherapy to target a specific protein on the surface of Ewing sarcoma cells.”

With the St. Baldrick’s Foundation funding in place, the two teams of cancer researchers will explore three different therapeutic strategies for Ewing sarcoma. These strategies include:

  • Examining how fusing an antibody with a toxin could be used to target and ultimately destroy cancer cells expressing a specific protein on the surface of Ewing sarcoma cells.
  • Exploring the use of a new experimental drug to directly inhibit the proteins that drive Ewing sarcoma development.
  • Advancing their work on the creation of a reagent that has the potential to be used as another type of immunotherapy for Ewing sarcoma, enabling a patient’s own immune cells to attack and destroy the tumour cells.

According to Kathleen Ruddy, chief executive officer of St. Baldrick’s Foundation, the future of Ewing sarcoma research looks promising with UBC’s Drs. Sorensen and Daugaard at the forefront, helping to advance new treatment options for this disease.

“Thousands of donors and volunteers have made the St. Baldrick’s Foundation the largest non-government funder of childhood cancer research grants. Our volunteers and scientists work tirelessly to ensure that current and future children diagnosed with cancer will have access to the most cutting-edge treatments and that tomorrow’s cures will come with fewer long-term toxic effects,” says Ruddy, who visited BC Cancer Research Centre last week, along with the family who made the anonymous gift to fund Martha’s BEST Grant for All.

“This incredibly generous major gift made it possible for us to seek out new Ewing sarcoma research and to fund this project that rose to the very top of our scientific review process. We are confident it will result in progress for kids like Martha and so many others,” adds Ruddy.

BEST Grant for All

Martha’s Better Ewing Sarcoma Treatment (BEST) Grant for All is named in honor of an 18-year-old girl who has fought the disease for over 4 years, after first being diagnosed with Ewing sarcoma in 2015, at the age of 13. Martha was happy to have her name associated with the grant but insisted on the “for All” to recognize the many other children diagnosed with Ewing sarcoma every year. Martha is currently showing no evidence of disease.

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