Inform, Empower, Connect

There are so many fantastic charities working towards a common goal of improving outcomes for people with osteosarcoma (OS). This week Kate Quillin, Research Officer at Sarcoma UK, took over our blog to share their work.

Sarcoma UK is the only cancer charity in the UK focusing on all types of sarcoma. We fund vital research, offer support and campaign for better treatments.

Sarcoma makes up less than 2% of all cancers diagnosed every year. It has more than 100 different subtypes, one of which is OS. Many people with sarcoma can only be treated with surgery, and other treatments are often very limited.

That’s why we fund world-class science to understand sarcoma better, improve treatments, and ultimately make a difference to people’s lives. Research is the heart of what we do. Since 2009, we have invested more than £5 million in research to improve the lives of people affected by sarcoma. 

Our vision is for everyone affected by sarcoma to have the treatment, care and support they need. We fund research into all types of sarcoma, to understand sarcoma subtypes better and develop new treatments. We also fund research to improve quality of life or make the journey to diagnosis more straightforward. One of our other key areas of focus is genomics. This type of research explores our genes and how they work together (known as our genome). Mistakes in our genome are a key cause of sarcoma. Genomic research over the last 10 years has greatly improved our understanding of the disease. Using this knowledge, scientists aim to create drugs to target specific sarcoma causing genes. We may see treatments tailored to each patient based on their genetic makeup in the future.

Many of the projects we fund are relevant to all types of sarcoma. But OS is the subtype we’ve funded most. One new project we’re funding at the University of Manchester looks at the link between OS and the immune system. Cells from the immune system are inside all cancers. Some try to attack the cancer, but others are hijacked by the cancer to help it grow. Dr Katie Finegan and her colleagues have found that when cells communicate with the immune system in a certain way, this can make OS spread to other parts of the body. This can be a problem, as cancers which have spread to other parts of the body are usually more challenging to treat. In this project, the team plan to do several things to help. Firstly, they aim to find out what type of immune cells each tumour has, and whether this is linked to how well patients do on certain treatments. By understanding this better, we might be able to personalise treatments depending on how each patient is likely to respond. The team will also test new drugs they have developed. These block a part of the immune system which goes wrong for people with OS. If the drugs work in the laboratory, the team hope this could be the first step towards a new treatment for OS patients in the future.

Understanding sarcoma is vital. But most of the research we fund is now looking to translate that understanding into developing new and better treatments. One team at the University of Birmingham are creating a bone replacement for people with OS. When bone is diseased or damaged, it needs to be replaced. Often this has to be taken from other parts of the body, such as the hips or ribs. In previous work, Dr Richard Martin and his team created a material which can kill OS cells. To create a new bone replacement material, they’re now taking this a step further. They will develop one material, made of glass, which can both kill the OS and encourage new bone to grow. It contains calcium and phosphorous, the key building blocks of bone. It also contains an antibacterial chemical to kill harmful microbes. The team hope that the material will reduce the chance of infection after surgery. It should also help new bone to grow, reducing healing times.

Many advances have been made in OS over the last few years, both in our research programme and beyond. But more is needed. No new treatments for OS have been developed in the last 40 years.

Dr Sorrel Bickley, Director of Research, Policy and Support at Sarcoma UK, said: “Like many subtypes of sarcoma, treatments for OS are desperately needed. We’re proud to have committed nearly £500,000 into projects specifically exploring OS over the last ten years and are excited to see how things progress in the future.”

It’s wonderful to hear about the work of other charities and a massive thank you to Sarcoma UK for taking over our blog. If you are part of sarcoma charity and would like to write a guest blog or be added to our charity map please contact us at