Rare treatment for cancer is within reach



In order to help develop more successful therapies with less side effects for Ewing’s sarcoma, a rare cancer that mostly affects children and young people, a renowned University of Dundee scientist will benefit from a recent multi-million dollar international grant.

A transatlantic team of scientists who have been awarded a Paediatric Cancer New Discoveries Challenge Grant worth nearly $1 million, around £ 770,000, will be led by Professor Kevin Hiom, from the University School of Medicine.

The awards are a partnership between Stand Up To Cancer in the U.S. and Cancer Research UK’s own initiative to speed up the production of innovative therapies in children and adolescents for some of the rarest and most difficult-to-treat cancers.

The bones or soft tissue surrounding them are affected by Ewing’s sarcoma. Most patients can be treated successfully when detected early, but the side effects of chemotherapy treatments can affect young people for the remainder of their lives. Sadly, in some patients with Ewing’s sarcoma, the cancer does not respond to current therapies, especially if the disease has already spread.

Professor Hiom accepted the award, saying, “This is an ambitious goal, but we hope that this research could lead to new treatments for Ewing sarcoma that are not as difficult for young people as we are currently using, and perhaps new treatments that could help more young people in the future to survive this rare cancer.”

The award is also a proud affirmation of the success of Dundee as a global leader in biomedical research that creates unique opportunities. We are proud that Stand Up To Cancer and Cancer Research UK has won this award, and we look forward to taking our experience to a global team to help more young people with this debilitating disease around the world.

Study SUPPORT: Professor Kevin Hiom, from the University of Dundee School of Medicine.

The team of scientists from Dundee, the University of Texas at San Antonio and the City of Hope Cancer Center in Los Angeles will try to draw on recent observations they have made about how Ewing’s sarcoma affects the body’s cellular machinery to create new therapies that may enable more children and young people with a better quality of life to survive the disease.

“Our studies have shown that the genetic dysfunction that leads to Ewing sarcoma causes cells to decode their DNA much faster,” Professor Hiom explained. This leads to the development of ‘nodes’ in the DNA that place stress on the cells and stop the cell from functioning normally, turning it into a cancer cell.

Our research focuses on these ‘nodes’ of DNA. We want to see if we can find a way to get more of these ‘nodes’ to shape cancer cells to bring the cells under so much stress that they die. Our hope is that this approach will lead to more successful therapies with less side effects because it attacks the particular part of the cellular machinery rather than the whole cell, which is how conventional

The funding was welcomed by the family of Grace Newton, from Falkirk, who was just five years old when she was diagnosed with Ewing’s sarcoma on February 21, 2014. Grace’s parents, Janet and Mark, anxiously awaited a ten-hour surgery following the diagnosis to remove a tumor found in her right arm. After 118 doses of medicine and more than 40 blood and platelet transfusions, Grace finished her 14th and final chemotherapy cycle in 2016.

In order to help those who have cancer, the 12-year-old high school student wants to pursue a career as a nurse.

“We definitely welcome new research and hope it will lead to less harsh treatments for teens diagnosed with Ewing’s sarcoma,” said Janet.

Grace’s immunity is still smaller than most people her age, and she also has pain in her shoulder and arm.

“There are also side effects on emotional well-being, in addition to the physical improvements that cancer treatment will bring. If there were better therapies in the future which were not only life-saving but also gentler, that would be fantastic. We had a phenomenal care team and we are so thankful for the treatment that saved the life of Grace. Grace’s main tumor was removed and she had a chemotherapy response of 98 percent,


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