Mary Beckerle, PhD
Project: A novel epigenetic strategy to treat Ewing sarcoma
August 2022 update: A Phase I clinical trial was initiated for Ewing sarcoma based on data from Dr. Beckerle's work during her award period. The trial is recruiting up to 50 patients at clinical sites across the country.
Ewing sarcoma is the most common bone cancer in children. The disease is typically aggressive and difficult to treat. Treatment of localized tumors involves surgery and chemotherapy. Despite these interventions, the vast majority of tumors spread to other locations in the body. Patients with metastasis face poor prognosis with a five-year survival rate of less than 20%. Therapeutic advances for Ewing sarcoma are desperately needed.
Stopping the spread of cancer
Ewing sarcoma can occur because of a chromosomal abnormality that causes an atypical protein, known as EWS/FLI, to be expressed. Mary Beckerle, PhD, and a collaborative team at the Huntsman Cancer Institute, have demonstrated that the EWS/FLI mutation disrupts the internal cellular skeleton which allows cells to move out of their normal environment. A cell that does not remain in its normal environment is more likely to travel to another area of the body, facilitating the spread of the tumor. Therefore, being able to stop EWS/FLI from changing a cell’s “stickiness” might help stop the spread of cancer. Dr. Beckerle’s team identified a novel targeted treatment for Ewing sarcoma that disrupts the effects of EWS/FLI and disrupts the spread of the cancer.
Dr. Beckerle’s Acceleration Award contributed to the clinical studies required to move this novel therapy into clinical trials.
As of the conclusion of her CureSearch-funded project, Dr. Beckerle has supported the movement of a new therapeutic for Ewing sarcoma into the clinic, leading to these milestones:
- 1 new metastatic Ewing sarcoma mouse model created
- 1 novel drug carried through preclinical testing and licensed to Salarius Pharmaceuticals – clinical trial update as of August 2022
- 1 IND application filed for drug assessed during CureSearch funding
"Discovering new targeted treatments for metastatic Ewing sarcoma."
The project was supported in part by generous contributions from the Nick Currey Fund and the Kiewit Corporation.