Scientists have unveiled the first and largest encyclopaedia of protein alterations in soft tissue sarcomas – opening the door to a new era of understanding and treatment for this group of rare cancers.
The pioneering encyclopaedia, or ‘Rosetta Stone’, of sarcoma biology compiles a wealth of information that could help untangle the protein changes driving sarcomas’ growth, spread and survival.
The findings, published in Nature Communications, will allow researchers to tap into the potential of immunotherapy in this cancer type which makes up to 15% of cancers in kids, teenagers and young adults. It could also identify people at higher risk of relapse and provide new ways to personalise treatments.
The encyclopaedia, developed by a team of researchers and clinicians led by The Institute of Cancer Research, London, comprises data from 321 people with 11 different types of sarcoma tumours.
New targeted drugs
Researchers looked at patient samples to uncover the ‘proteomic profile’ of the sarcoma tumours. Since most approved cancer drugs work by targeting proteins, understanding more about the proteins driving sarcoma could lead to new targeted drugs.
The new insights have also uncovered new immunotherapy targets, including proteins involved in the complement cascade. The new targets could ultimately lead to new ways of treating “immune cold” sarcomas, which do not respond well to current immune checkpoint drugs.
The encyclopaedia has also allowed researchers to identify proteins that can be measured to help predict which tumours are particularly high-risk and aggressive. This could, in the future, pave the way for more tailored treatment for individuals, for example by identifying patients who may benefit from more aggressive treatment.
Study leader Dr Paul Huang, Team Leader of the Molecular and Systems Oncology Team at the ICR, said: “Our ‘encyclopaedia’ of protein alterations is a vital resource – a Rosetta Stone of sorts that will help us unravel the complex language of sarcoma tumours. This will allow us to explore new avenues of personalised treatment, offering renewed hope for people with sarcoma.
“Our findings hold promise for the development of new targeted treatments and immunotherapies that can disrupt the underlying processes driving sarcoma. I am hopeful that this study will lead to improved treatment outcomes and a better quality of life for sarcoma patients.”