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Alice’s Arc, a childhood cancer charity, have generously supported a new research project looking at improving treatment for children with fusion-negative rhabdomyosarcoma (RMS).

We are delighted to announce Alice’s Arc, a childhood cancer charity, have generously supported a new research project looking at improving treatment for children with fusion-negative rhabdomyosarcoma (RMS).

The project will commence on 1 March 2021 and will be led by Dr Susanne Gatz at the University of Birmingham. The team also comprises Professor Jo Morris, Professor Ferenc Mueller and Dr Joseph Wragg, and a PhD student will join the team in October this year.

Fusion negative RMS accounts for around 75% of all newly diagnosed RMS and 50% of all relapses. Importantly, RAS pathway gene mutations are present in around 50% of this fusion negative group and identifying new treatments for RMS with these changes could make a huge difference to RMS patients.

This project aims to increase our understanding of RAS pathway alterations in RMS, focusing on DNA repair and replication stress. Research into normal cells and other cancers suggests that RAS pathway alterations change the way that cells deal with tasks like replicating their DNA and repairing defects in their DNA.

Its ultimate goal is to identify new and tailored treatments for this population of RMS patients that can feed into established academic clinical trials such as FaR-RMS, which is led by the Cancer Research Clinical Trials Unit (CRCTU) at the University of Birmingham.

Dr Susanne Gatz, Senior Clinical Lecturer in Paediatric Oncology says: "Around 60 children per year in the UK are diagnosed with rhabdomyosarcoma and for those presenting with metastatic or relapsed disease the prognosis is dismal.

"In most cases, there are no curative treatment options available on relapse and we want to change this. We can only make progress towards this by conducting these crucial research projects and securing grants from charities like Alice’s Arc. I am incredibly grateful for their support of this important, innovative project."

Sara and David Wakeling, founders of Alice’s Arc say: "We believe this project will contribute to achieving our research priorities. Our goals are to invest in innovative research that can be translated to clinical trials, creating more treatment options for children with relapsed disease and consequently improving survival rates for children with rhabdomyosarcoma. We look forward to working with the team at the University of Birmingham on this important piece of research."