Friends of Rosie has awarded a grant of £70,000 to kickstart promising new research into the use of Proton Beam Therapy (PBT) to treat sarcomas in children.
The project is being led by researchers at The University of Manchester, with support from The Christie NHS Foundation Trust. It is investigating the biology of protons used in PBT to treat sarcomas in children. The project is due to start in Autumn/Winter 2020.
Felicity Goodey, Chair of Friends of Rosie, says, “While attention is rightly focused on COVID-19 research at present, we must ensure that vital research into childhood cancer continues for the future. The project we are funding is a world-first study into the effectiveness of proton beam therapy on one of the commonest forms of childhood cancers, paediatric sarcoma. The project will also enable the first steps to identify new treatment combinations, which may ultimately make Proton Beam Therapy (PBT) more effective and kinder to children with sarcoma.
“We are very fortunate to have the first Proton Therapy facility in the UK at the Christie Hospital in Manchester, a long-term research partner of Friends of Rosie. The new centre includes a research room so that the proton beam can be used, not only to deliver lifesaving treatment, but also to carry out ground-breaking research.”
Dr Amy Chadwick from The University of Manchester and Professor Karen Kirkby from The University of Manchester and The Christie will lead this project. Dr Chadwick gives more detail of the project as follows:
“Sarcomas are cancers that can develop in bone and soft tissues anywhere in the body. Due to their rarity, diversity, and treatment complexity, sarcomas in children require careful, individualised treatment.
“Many paediatric patients benefit from radiotherapy as part of their treatment for sarcoma. The most common type of radiotherapy uses X-rays. Although this type of radiation is highly effective, it can cause collateral damage to the healthy tissue that surrounds the tumour, which can result in serious side effects. The developing tissues in children are particularly sensitive.
Proton Beam Therapy
“To reduce the damage to healthy tissues, whilst still eradicating the tumour, PBT, an advanced type of radiotherapy can be used. A high energy beam of protons is used to precisely target the tumour while minimising damage to surrounding healthy tissue. This makes PBT the preferred radiation treatment for paediatric sarcomas. But there is still a lot to learn about how PBT affects both tumour cells and those of normal tissues. This funding from Friends of Rosie will allow us to undertake the first and most comprehensive study of PBT in paediatric sarcoma cells using the dedicated research room at The Christie.
Continues Dr Chadwick, “As part of this study we will focus on the oxygen level of tumours. As a tumour grows, it can outstrip its blood supply, leaving some regions of a tumour with significantly lower levels of oxygen. This “tumour hypoxia” causes resistance to radiotherapy, as well as making tumours more aggressive with the potential to metastasise. Our study will mimic the low oxygen environment of tumours during irradiation with PBT so that we can understand how cells in the most resistant parts of a tumour respond to protons. During this study we will perform high throughput drug screening using sarcoma cells to identify potential treatments that may enhance the effectiveness of PBT and overcome the resistance caused by low oxygen levels. The Friends of Rosie funding will allow the first steps in identifying new treatment combinations, which may ultimately make PBT more effective and kinder to children with sarcoma.”