This new three-year project, which builds on the success of an earlier two-year research grant funded by the charity, Friends of Rosie Children’s Cancer Research Fund, will continue at The University of Manchester in October 2019. In common with the initial project, this new one will be led by Dr Katherine Finegan, MRPharmS.
During the initial project, Dr Finegan’s team found that a protein, called ERK5, can control the growth and spread of osteosarcomas. By removing ERK5, they were able to slow the growth of osteosarcomas and prevent their spread to the lung (metastases).
The PhD 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, “This information will help us understand how ERK5-targeted therapies would work. It will also help us 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.
“Secondly, this project will investigate if removing ERK5 can improve response to chemotherapy in models of osteosarcoma. And, finally, we will use samples donated from patients (Biobank) to confirm that our findings from osteosarcoma models translate to osteosarcoma patients. Importantly, via another grant, we are making new compounds to target ERK5. Once these new compounds are available (by approximately end of 2020), we will use them in this project to test their effectiveness in osteosarcoma models.”
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.”
Says Friends of Rosie Chair, Felicity Goodey, “We’re 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’re hopeful that the project being funded by Hannah’s Willberry Wonder Pony Charity will attract large-scale funding and help to improve the prognosis and treatment for children diagnosed with osteosarcoma in the future.” 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.