Dr. Tsz-Kwong Man, a researcher with the Texas Children's Cancer Center at Baylor College of Medicine, has a received a grant from the Liddy Shriver Sarcoma Initiative to study the function of a protein that may promote the spread of a common form of children's bone cancer called osteosarcoma.

"This is a devastating cancer," said Man, principal investigator of the study. "Once the cancer spreads to other parts of the body, and it often does, it can be very aggressive and has poor survival rates."

That's why it is important to continue research into identifying a useful drug target to stop development of the cancer spread, Man said.

Sarcoma is a cancer of the connective tissues, such as nerves, muscles, cartilage, joints, bone or blood vessels. It often appears in the legs and presents with subtle symptoms such as soreness and pain.

Panels of antibodies

Using high-throughput technology, Man and his team look to identify panels of antibodies (proteins in blood that identify and kill foreign objects, such as bacteria and viruses) involved in metastasis – when the cancer spreads to other parts of the body.

Prior to receiving this grant, Man had identified an antibody targeting an important tumor-suppressing protein (p27kip1) that may help block a cell's path to cancer.

"This protein turns out to be very important in metastasis," said Man. "It may promote cell motility (ability to move spontaneously and actively) and formation of metastases."

The hypothesis, Man said, is that if this protein is mislocalized within the cytoplasm (contents of a cell, outside of the nucleus), it acquires a new cancer spreading function.

$50,0000 grant

The Liddy Shriver Sarcoma Initiative grant, for $50,000 over one year, will allow Man to study the function of this protein along with other pathways involved in osteosarcoma.

The findings could lead to new therapies for osteosarcoma patients, Man said, and potentially other forms of cancer.

"We are delighted to be funding this research study by Dr. Man and hope that the results of his work lead to a better outcome for children with metastatic osteosarcoma and, potentially, other metastatic sarcomas as well," said Dr. Bruce D. Shriver, director of the research grants program at the Liddy Shriver Sarcoma Initiative.

Osteosarcoma is most common in children and occurs in the second decades of life (teenagers and young adults).

Treatment typically includes a combination of chemotherapy, followed by surgery and more chemotherapy.

The funding for this Liddy Shriver Sarcoma Initiative grant is made possible, in part, by generous donations made by family and friends in memory of Sammie Hartsfield (Team Sammie), in memory of Brandon Gordon (Brandon's Defense Foundation) and in memory of Emma Koertzen, who lost their lives to osteosarcoma, and by generous donations made by the family and friends of Todd Andrews (Team Sarcoma Bike Tour), Logan Brasic (Soccer 'Round the Clock) and Shannon Ryan (Team Sarcoma Bike Tour), who are still fighting this disease or are survivors.