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Rosie's Friends

Osteosarcoma project secures further funding

A project researching the treatment and detection of osteosarcoma in children, funded for the past two years by Manchester-based charity, Friends of Rosie, has secured a further three years’ investment.

The project will continue at The University of Manchester, led by Dr Katherine Finegan. The next three years of funding, starting in October 2019, is being part-provided by Somerset-based charity, Hannah’s Willberry Wonder Pony. They provide funding specifically for osteosarcoma research.

What is osteosarcoma?

Osteosarcoma is a type of rare bone cancer. Once osteosarcoma has spread to other parts of a child’s body, called metastasizing, fewer than 30% of patients survive five years after diagnosis. The project to date has researched the role of a protein called, ERK5, which is believed to advance the spread of osteosarcoma tumours.

It is now understood that ERK5 controls the body’s immune response to tumours. During the initial research, Dr Finegan’s team found that by removing ERK5, they were able to slow the growth of osteosarcomas and prevent their spread to other parts of the body. The second phase of research, being part-funded by Hannah’s Willberry Wonder Pony, will build on these exciting preliminary findings to explore exactly how ERK5 controls osteosarcoma progression.

Dr Finegan comments, “We will focus now on trying to understand how ERK5-targeted therapies would work. We will also look to understand the proteins that “talk” and “listen” to ERK5 during osteosarcoma development, something we know nothing about yet. Understanding these “conversations” that ERK5 has in the cells, enables us to find new proteins that we could target in the future to make new therapies for osteosarcoma.”


Says Friends of Rosie Chair, Felicity Goodey, “We are delighted that our funding, which enabled this project to get off the ground, has already helped this vital research to secure further investment for the next three years. We are hopeful that this project will go on to attract large-scale funding and help to improve the prognosis and treatment for children diagnosed with osteosarcoma in the future.”

Rachel Francis of Hannah’s Willberry Wonder Pony Charity adds, “We’re delighted to be helping to take the very encouraging findings from the project funded by Friends of Rosie to the next stage. We’re working hard to collaborate with fellow charities and ensure our research activity is joined-up to ensure the greatest chance of success. We know Hannah would have been proud that her charity has enabled further research into this devastating disease.”

Notes to editors

About Friends of Rosie

When five-year-old Rosie Larkin lost her battle against cancer in 1991, her family and friends were determined to carry on the fight to help other children affected by cancer. They set up Friends of Rosie, an independent charity dedicated to raising money for research in Manchester into the causes, prevention, diagnosis and treatment of childhood cancer.

Friends of Rosie strongly believes that the key to cure is research and, with their supporters, they raise money in the North West of England for this underfunded and vital area of research.

As a volunteer-led charity, almost every penny raised is used as start-up funding for pioneering cancer research projects. Most of these research projects would never get off the ground without the charity’s support and many go on to be funded by national cancer research charities as a result.

About Hannah’s Willberry Wonder Pony Charity

Hannah’s Willberry Wonder Pony Charity was established by talented horse rider, Hannah Francis, following her diagnosis with the aggressive form of bone cancer in 2015. A major part of Hannah’s dream for her charity was to support vital research into osteosarcoma, which usually develops in growing bones. Hannah established her charity in March 2016 before tragically losing her life later that year at the age of just 18 years old.

Hannah founded her charity, Hannah’s Willberry Wonder Pony, in March 2016 to raise money to fulfil two principal objectives – to fund research into osteosarcoma and to provide equestrian experiences (“Willberry’s Wishes”) to seriously ill people. The charity made strong progress under Hannah’s leadership and has gone from strength to strength since her passing, raising more than £1,000,000 in its first 24 months. The charity has commenced a number of significant research programmes as Hannah so dearly wished and is granting Willberry’s Wishes to seriously ill people in the hope that these experiences inspire others in the same way as they did Hannah, bringing a little happiness and hope during the darkest of times.


Katrina London

Katrina has specialised in the field of occupational personal injury for over 35 years and has worked exclusively for the victims of asbestos related diseases for the last 20 years.  Katrina is an APIL Accredited Occupational Disease and Asbestos Disease Specialist and Senior Litigator and has Law Society Personal Injury Accreditation. 


Carla Nuttall

Carla has over 20 years’ experience specialising in strategic communications, engagement and marketing across the public and private sector, including the BBC, Manchester Metropolitan University and Muse Developments. She is currently Executive Director of Corporate Affairs and Marketing for The Growth Company, an award-winning social enterprise that enables growth, creates jobs and improves lives.