For around one in three patients diagnosed with Ewing sarcoma in just one part of the body current treatments are ineffective.
The new research, funded by the Bone Cancer Research Trust and the Ewing’s Sarcoma Research Trust, opens up the possibility of offering these patients additional treatment that could increase their chance of survival.
The research team from the University of Leeds were able to identify the particular cancer cells – known as cancer stem-like cells – in Ewing sarcoma that are resistant to chemotherapy and responsible for recurrence of the disease. In the laboratory, the researchers found a protein called neurexin-1 at much higher levels in the cancer stem-like cells.
They then looked at survival data. Patients whose tumours had higher levels of this protein were more likely to see the disease return and less likely to survive.