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New research sheds light on the spread of deadly childhood cancer

Summary

Specific protein was discovered that allows childhood sarcoma to progress. Blocking it could keep it from getting worse

VANCOUVER (NEWS1130) – New research from the BC Cancer Agency has shed some light on a rare but deadly form of childhood cancer.

Doctors now understand how childhood sarcoma spreads, which is half the battle in finding new treatments for the disease.

About forty per cent of children suffering from this form of cancer end up dying, although its prevalence is low, with only 12 new cases reported per year in the province. It attacks the bones, muscles and other connective tissues and spreads rapidly through the body.

A specific protein was discovered that allows the spreading of the disease to progress. Blocking this protein could be the key to keeping it from getting worse.

Current treatments are so invasive that survivors often deal with the negative consequences into adulthood.

“These cures come with devastating side effects, long-term physical, emotional, psychological side effects that affect the child and the family for the life of the child,” says head researcher Dr. Poul Sorensen.

“You know, one day, the kid is playing with his or her friends on the playground, the next, the child is up at Children’s Hospital and into the rigmarole of horrible treatments,” he adds.

It’s been more than 20 years since the last advancement was made in sarcoma research, and Sorensen says this new understanding of how the disease spreads will be advantageous for other cancers as well.

“Studying childhood cancers give you incredible insights into the process of cancer biology and cancer spread, so I think this is another example of starting something in childhood cancers with broad relevance to the wider cancer field.”

Written by Lauren Sundstrom