Sarcoma Cancer Awareness Month: Highlighting cell and gene therapy for sarcomas

Jul 03, 2023
Devin Golden

ACGT has funded multiple research projects for sarcoma cancer.

Sarcomas are a group of cancers often called the “forgotten cancer” due to their rarity. Each year, between 13,000-16,000 people in the U.S. are diagnosed with sarcomas, and around 5,000 people die from these cancers each year.

Alliance for Cancer Gene Therapy (ACGT), which funds innovative scientists and biotech working to harness the power of cell and gene therapy to transform cancer treatment, has not “forgotten” about sarcomas.

July is Sarcoma Cancer Awareness Month, and an opportunity to highlight the potential of cell and gene therapy to treat people with these cancers. This month, ACGT is raising awareness of recent advances in cell and gene therapy research for sarcomas, the need for more progress, and how everyone can help ACGT and the most cutting-edge scientists bring new therapies to sarcoma patients.

What are sarcomas?

There are more than 70 types of sarcoma.

According to the Mayo Clinic, sarcomas are a group of tumors that occur in bones and soft tissues, such as tissue that surrounds fat, muscle, blood vessels, nerves and tendons. There are more than 70 types of sarcomas, including more common types such as: osteosarcoma, angiosarcoma, fibrosarcoma, liposarcoma, chondrosarcoma and Ewing sarcoma.

The Mayo Clinic has a list of common symptoms of sarcomas. Some of them are:

  • A lump felt through the skin (may or may not be painful)
  • Bone pain
  • An unexpected broken bone from a minor injury or no injury at all

Treatment for this type of cancer varies depending on the type and location. Most patients receive surgery, chemotherapy or radiation.

Incidence and survival statistics for sarcomas

In 2023, there are approximately 13,400 cases of soft tissue sarcoma and 4,000 cases of bone and joint cancer expected to be diagnosed in the United States, according to data from the National Cancer Institute. An estimated 5,250 and 2,150 people are expected to die from soft tissue and bone sarcomas, respectively. The 5-year survival rate is 65.8% for soft tissue sarcomas and 68.9% for bone and joint sarcomas.

ACGT funding of sarcoma research

ACGT has been at the forefront of advancing research into cell and gene therapies for more than 20 years and awarding more than $34 million to 63 scientists for innovative cell and gene therapy research projects.

Our efforts have led to FDA approvals of CAR T-cell therapies for blood cancer patients, and more recent grants focus on treatment of solid tumors such as sarcomas.

Three ACGT Research Fellows who have received funding for sarcoma research projects include:

  • Crystal Mackall, MD, of Stanford University, received grant funding to develop a CAR T-cell therapy to target a protein found on the surface of osteosarcoma cells. CAR T-cell therapy is a type of cell and gene therapy where the patient’s T cells are reprogrammed to look for cancer cells expressing a specific protein.
  • Stephen Gottschalk, MD, of St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, received a grant to develop a CAR T-cell therapy with two different protein targets on sarcomas.
  • Seth Pollack, MD, of Northwestern University, received a grant to research whether a pair of engineered T-cell receptors can help patients with either synovial sarcoma or myxoid/round cell liposarcoma. Dr. Pollack was at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Center when he received the grant.

ACGT also partners with Wendy Walk, an annual event that raises money for sarcoma research. Inspired by their mother’s courageous battle with liposarcoma, Ali, Matt and Jackie Landes organized the first annual Wendy Walk in 2010. Since then, Wendy Walk has raised more than $610,000 to benefit ACGT. The grants for Drs. Mackall, Gottschalk and Pollack were funded in part by Wendy Walk.

Get involved with ACGT

If you’d like to get more involved in our efforts to transform cancer treatment, sign up for ACGT’s e-newsletter. This monthly email delivers the latest news directly to your inbox. You’ll learn about the efforts of ACGT Research Fellows and ways you can help us advance cell and gene therapy research for solid tumors such as sarcomas.