FUNDING THE DEVELOPMENT OF BLOODS TESTS TO MONITOR DISEASE PROGRESSION
The Drew Barker-Wright Charity has been supporting the work of Adrienne Flanagan, her team at UCL, and the UK Chordoma Study for the last two years. For 2020 we have donated a further £15,000 to the project and to support the development of a blood test to monitor disease progression.
Dr Inga Usher, a clinical PhD student studying chordoma, has collected blood and tissue samples from paediatric and young patients as part of our National Institute of Health supported Chordoma Study. Funding from The Drew Barker-Wright Charity supported the sample collection and processing as described below.
Tumour samples from paediatric patients with chordoma
During the past 12 months the team have received 10 samples from children and young people with chordoma, 5 with matching DNA blood or saliva and 5 with only tumour tissue. DNA is being extracted from the 10 tumour samples and checked for quality using funding from Chordoma Foundation to which The Drew Barker-Wright Charity has also contributed.
Molecular analysis of samples from children and young adults
Wherever sufficient genomic material of adequate quality is available, the team will undertake various molecular analyses including genomic sequencing. They have also applied to access third party whole genome data from an additional 5 paediatric tumour samples that have already been sequenced. In total, they will have data for up to 18 (aged <5 – 23) patients to analyse. In the next 12 months the data will be analysed. Taken together, the data generated by these analyses will form the most comprehensive picture to date of chordoma in paediatric and young patients.
Blood Tests to Monitor Disease
As part of Dr Usher’s PhD project, the team at UCL propose to develop a blood test to monitor progression of disease and predict clinical outcome for patients with chordoma. The aim would be to use this test to determine if a chordoma were fully removed at surgery and inform the doctors at an early stage if a tumour recurs.
The test could also potentially be used in drug trials for determining if patients with chordoma are responding to treatments. At present this can only be done by medical imaging such as CT and MRI, and these are not sensitive modalities for detecting small changes in response to therapies. Such tests have been developed for more common cancers and the team are developing a similar test for osteosarcoma, another bone cancer that occurs in children. They will use the experience that others have accrued to develop this test for chordoma.
They have already identified markers that can distinguish DNA from a chordoma and DNA from normal tissue. These markers can then be used to detect chordoma-derived DNA in blood samples. They have currently collected more than 120 samples from 40 patients (pre- and post-surgery).
The development of a blood test to help determine the progression of disease is something that The Drew Barker-Wright Charity feels passionate about. Currently young children have to undergo numerous MRI and CT scans to successfully track the progression of chordoma. Young children struggle to stay still for such scans, and so they have to be placed under general anaesthetic. During treatment, these scans can occur on a regular basis and continual use general anaesthetic can be a very stressful process for both child and parent. A move towards a blood test that could minimise MRI and CT scans will be invaluable to young chordoma patients in treatment worldwide.