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Utah physicians join worldwide team to research rare cancer

Published: Thursday, May 1 2014 5:15 p.m. MDT

Two Utah physicians have been named principal investigators and awarded a sizable grant to study the genetics of a rare form of cancer.

Jordan Allred, Deseret News

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SALT LAKE CITY — Two Utah physicians have been named principal investigators and awarded a sizable grant to study the genetics of a rare form of cancer.

The International Sarcoma Kindred Study, in which Utah joins sites in Australia, England, France and India, aims to investigate Ewing's sarcoma and liposarcomas to search for genetic predictors of the cancers' response to treatment, as well as inherited syndromes that increase the risk of it.

"This study will address an unmet need for sarcoma research," said Dr. R. Lor Randall, a sarcoma surgeon, professor of orthopedics at the University of Utah and director of sarcoma services at the Huntsman Cancer Institute. "The kind of worldwide brain trust this study requires would not be possible without this grant's support."

Randall said not enough is known about the sarcoma group of cancers, which attacks the body's connective tissues.

"We want to discover the genetic basis of sarcomas, find out why people get these diseases, and find ways to optimize their treatment," he said.

About 130,000 people worldwide are diagnosed annually with some form of sarcoma. The cancers can be deadly and often occur in children and young adults.

"Sarcoma is so rare that the only way to complete a statistically valid study is to work together with global partners," said Dr. Joshua Schiffman, medical director at Huntsman's high-risk Pediatric Cancer Clinic and the study's coordinating investigator in Utah.

Researchers also hope to examine and define cross-cultural attitudes about genetic knowledge to help assure affective communication with patients in all countries.

Randall and Schiffman have been awarded $250,000 by the Liddy Shriver Sarcoma Initiative and the Wendy Walk, organizations that promote research and improving the quality of life for people dealing with sarcomas around the world. There is currently no cure for sarcoma cancers.

Email: wleonard@deseretnews.com

Twitter: wendyleonards

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