Photo: Stefan Frohling, MD of the German Cancer Research Center and NCT Heidelberg
Our research investments to date have culminated in 12 clinical trials, several of which are yielding promising results. Yet we know more effective and more personalized drugs and drug combinations will likely be needed to realize our vision of enabling all chordoma patients to overcome their disease. To continue stoking the discovery of new ways to treat chordoma, we and our funding partners recently invested $1M in six projects at institutions around the world. These efforts will generate critical data to guide further preclinical and clinical research, and help chordoma patients benefit from powerful new approaches to cancer treatment.
The new grants include:
Opening the door to new treatment modalities. In partnership with the Canadian Cancer Society and the UHN Foundation, we awarded a $250,000 grant to investigators at the University Health Network in Toronto. Led by Thomas Kislinger, PhD, a leading expert in cancer proteomics (the study of proteins present in cells and how they function) and Gelareh Zadeh, MD, PhD, a neurosurgeon-scientist who has deep expertise in chordoma, the project aims to discover chordoma-specific proteins on the outer surface of tumor cells that can serve as beacons for a variety of emerging cancer therapies. This work is an extension of impressive progress resulting from our previous grants to Dr. Zadeh and colleagues. We’re particularly grateful to Steven Golick and Susie Rinehart, whose experiences with chordoma inspired them to undertake impressive fundraising efforts to launch this project.
Developing personalized immunotherapy approaches for chordoma. We’re proud to continue our partnership with the Cancer Research Institute (CRI), the world’s premier supporter of cancer immunotherapy research, to invest in research to enable chordoma patients to benefit from the latest immunotherapy advances. Most recently, we co-funded two $200,000 grants with CRI both aimed at elucidating the various ways in which chordoma tumors interact with and evade immune cells in their vicinity: one led by Judith Bovee, MD, PhD at Leiden University Medical Center in the Netherlands and the other led by Qilin Zhang, MD at Fudan University in Shanghai. Both projects could lead to personalized chordoma immunotherapy treatments.
Generating actionable biological insights. Building on potentially significant preliminary findings from a grant we issued previously, we’ve awarded a $150,000 follow-on grant to Stefan Frohling, MD at the German Cancer Research Center (DKFZ) and the National Center for Tumor Diseases in Heidelberg. The new funding will enable Dr. Frohling’s team to expand their multi-omics analysis to a larger cohort (including pediatric samples) and add additional data layers. The goal of this project is to generate a comprehensive view into the biology of chordoma tumors with the eventual aim of being able to tailor treatment approaches to each patient’s unique tumor profile.
Identifying combination therapies. We awarded a $50,000 pilot grant to the DKFZ’s Claudia Scholl, PhD to use CRISPR-based functional genomics screens to systematically identify genes that enhance the sensitivity or promote resistance to promising drugs against chordoma. Their pilot screen will focus on searching for genes that affect response to a certain class of drugs, with the aim of being able to identify potential combination therapies for chordoma. If the pilot project is successful, it could serve as a platform for identifying additional combination therapy approaches.
Uncovering new drivers of chordoma. Finally, we awarded a $150,000 grant to Kadir Akdemir, PhD at MD Anderson Cancer Center to explore whether changes in the 3D structure of DNA within chordoma cells could point to previously unknown therapeutic opportunities.
We thank the many individuals, families, and organizations whose generosity is making these important projects possible. Each has the potential to identify aspects of chordoma’s biology that could point to new therapeutic approaches to kill chordoma cells directly or help the immune system do so, and we’re excited to keep you posted as results emerge.