Our Foundation has helped fund so many important research projects at the Telethon Kids Institute, working together with the Institute for decades to help improve the lives of children battling cancer. One of the exciting research projects that we are currently helping to fund is the Local Immunotherapy for Sarcoma project, headed by Associate Professor Joost Lesterhuis.
Joost is the Head of the Sarcoma Translational Research team at the Telethon Kids Cancer Centre, a team that aims to discover and develop safer and more effective treatments for sarcoma through inventive and rigorous research. One of the team’s current focuses is on developing immunotherapy approaches for childhood sarcoma that can be applied during surgery to prevent relapse.
Sarcomas are a group of cancers of the bone, muscle, or connective tissue. About 15% of cancers in children and adolescents are sarcomas, whereas it makes up only 1% of cancers in adults. “The biggest problem that has been facing sarcoma is that there hasn’t been a lot of progress in the last three decades,” said Joost. “Basically, we treat children with sarcoma the same as we did three decades ago.”
The relatively high incidence of the disease in children and the regularity of relapse makes the development of more effective treatments a high priority. “We really need to do better,” said Joost. “Because, at the moment, the primary treatment that we have available is surgery. With surgery, you really want to get rid of the tumour with a wide margin around it. Which, in some cases actually means amputations of limbs.”
Unfortunately, in many cases, some cancer cells will remain after surgery, which can then grow out in time and cause the cancer to come back. This means children must also go through harsh chemotherapy or radiotherapy before and after surgery. Even after all this, some children will still relapse.
“Once sarcoma returns, the prognosis becomes rather grim,” explained Joost. “One in three children will actually die from their sarcoma. So, we really have to do better.”
Currently, Joost and his team are developing a gel that can be left behind in the wound bed by the surgeon after sarcoma surgery. Children can then go home while the gel locally releases immunotherapy in the period that follows the surgery.
The aim is for the gel to attract and activate immune cells to mop up any remaining cancer cells, hopefully preventing the relapse of the sarcoma. The nature of the gel itself means that it safely degrades on its own.
This is such an exciting project and one that our Foundation is extremely proud to help fund. By continuing to fund this project, with the help of our generous community of supporters, we can see outcomes improve for so many children with sarcoma.
When you donate towards CCRF, you are helping to support world-class researchers like Joost and his team at the Telethon Kids Cancer Centre. This helps us get closer to seeing a future where children can live the cancer-free and side-effect-free lives that they deserve. If you would like to donate, simply head to our online donation page.
Images provided by Telethon Kids Institute