What difference will this project make?
Resistance to treatment has always been a major obstacle to successfully curing cancer. Some types, including the high-risk neuroblastoma that affects children, will respond at first to intensive treatment, but then resistant tumours develop, which mean that the child is unlikely to survive.
This project is looking at mutations in a gene known as ALK, and how tumours relating to it develop resistance to treatment.
Around 9 per cent of high-risk neuroblastoma patients carry this ALK mutation. It’s also seen in a number of adult cancers, and we’ve had some good initial results with treatments that use ALK inhibitors. But although the tumours respond well to start with, after a while resistant tumours emerge. We’re now looking at neuroblastoma with tumours carrying these ALK mutations, and expect them to develop similar resistance over time.
Up to now, when exploring new ways to treat these tumours, we’ve had to use a ‘wait and see’ approach, trying things out through several rounds of trials before we can see the effect. This takes a long time, often too long for children going through an early round of a trial for a new treatment.
In this project, Suzanne will be investigating how tumours resist to a treatment at the same time as the trials, aiming to develop tailored treatments against resistant neuroblastoma tumours. If successful, this should help to prevent relapse, and significantly extending the children’s survival periods.