Susan Miranda, PhD, associate professor in the Department of Orthopaedic Surgery in the College of Medicine at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center (UTHSC), has received a one-year $99,918 grant from the St. Baldrick’s Foundation to continue her research into ways to prevent the growth of osteosarcoma cells by targeting estrogen signaling.
The St. Baldrick’s Foundation is the largest private funder of childhood cancer research grants. This year, the foundation awarded 76 grants totaling more than $19.1 million to support physician-scientists studying innovative treatment options in pediatric cancer. Among other schools awarded grants are Baylor College of Medicine, MD Anderson Cancer Center, Brigham and Women’s Hospital, and St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.
Dr. Miranda’s grant comes with generous support from the Sweet Caroline Fund, a St. Baldrick’s Hero Fund started to honor the memory of Caroline Richards, who was diagnosed in 2014 with osteosarcoma (a rare cancer that begins in the bones) in her right arm when she was 11 years old. She passed away a year after her diagnosis.
Over the last three decades, the survival rate for osteosarcoma has not changed, because no targeted therapies are available. Surgery and cytotoxic chemotherapy are available options, but they are not always effective. For children diagnosed, the five-year survival rate is 69 percent.
Estrogen is important for bone metabolism via a variety of mechanisms in a number of cells to maintain bone mineral density. It has been assumed that estrogen does not play a role in osteosarcoma, because the tumor cells are estrogen-receptor negative.
“Normal bone cells respond to estrogen signaling and the goal of our work is to reactivate estrogen signaling to prevent osteosarcoma tumors from developing,” Dr. Miranda said. “Our long-term goal is to treat osteosarcoma patients with drugs to allow hormone therapy to be effective. These drugs are FDA-approved for other cancers and can be more rapidly applied to osteosarcoma.”