Pediatric Cancer Specialist Wins Ewing Sarcoma Research Grant

August 15, 2008
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Dr. Steven DuBois, a pediatric cancer specialist at UCSF Children's Hospital, was awarded a two-year, $80,000 Hope Street Kids research grant to study a new technique to detect circulating tumor cells in patients with Ewing sarcoma. DuBois intends to use the grant, awarded in June, to develop a way to better monitor response to therapy and identify the level of risk patients face.

Ewing sarcoma is the second most common bone cancer seen in children and young adults. About 75 percent of patients are diagnosed with tumors that have not yet spread, or metastasized, to other parts of the body.

Using a laboratory technique called polymerase chain reaction (PCR), researchers have shown that many Ewing sarcoma patients have tumor cells in their blood and bone marrow. These tumor cells may go on to develop new tumors elsewhere in the body.

While PCR is a good test, DuBois said there are several problems with using PCR to measure Ewing sarcoma tumor cells in the blood and bone marrow. "We have developed a new laboratory technique to measure Ewing sarcoma tumor cells in the blood and bone marrow. This method uses a machine called a flow cytometer to measure a specific protein, known as CD99, on the surface of almost all Ewing sarcoma tumor cells," he said.

This method is simpler, more widely available in clinical laboratories and less prone to experimental variation than PCR. This method could be applied to more patients than PCR. "In this study, we plan to study 20 patients with Ewing sarcoma over two years," DuBois said.

DuBois will collect a sample of blood and a sample of bone marrow from Ewing sarcoma patients. He will use both the PCR method and the new flow cytometry method to find Ewing sarcoma cells in these samples. "We hope to show that this new flow cytometry method can find Ewing sarcoma cells in these samples as accurately and effectively as the current PCR method. In the future, this technique may be useful to monitor the disease burden and effectiveness of therapy in Ewing sarcoma," he said.

For more information about the UCSF Pediatric Cancer and Blood Disease Program, please click here.

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