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14 Jun

New fellowship award brings hope for future sarcoma patients

Magda Meissner

Dr Magda Meissner is proving to be one of Wales’s rising stars of research as she begins a Clinical Trial Fellowship with Cancer Research UK.

Last year Dr Meissner took part in the Future Leaders in Cancer Research, a scheme funded by Cardiff University and coordinated by the Wales Cancer Research Centre. The scheme aims to develop promising early career researchers and set them on a path to future leadership. During her time on the scheme, she produced a short film about her research, viewable below:

Dr Meissner took full advantage of the scheme which gave her the opportunity to take part in the prestigious MCCR workshop, Methods in Clinical Cancer Research, where she developed a trial protocol that was the basis for her fellowship application.

The Cancer Research UK Clinical Trial Fellowship offers her an opportunity to train within the Centre for Trials Research at Cardiff University. The centre has developed a programme of training and practical experience that will allow Dr Meissner to become an independent clinical researcher able to develop new clinical trial ideas and deliver them as part of a team. As a key element of this programme Dr Meissner has identified two patient representatives to guide the development and delivery of her cancer clinical trials.

Dr Meissner’s research interest is in soft tissue sarcomas. Around 3,300 people are diagnosed with these rare cancers each year in the UK and this number has been increasing since 1990. It affects young adults and approximately 60% of patients will survive for five years after diagnosis.

Unfortunately, when the disease spreads to other organs it is more difficult to treat and the five-year survival drops to just 16%. After it has spread, chemotherapy only works for around 10 – 30% of people and this treatment can cause severe side effects. It is therefore vital to find drugs which are effective and have fewer side effects.

There is a particular genetic factor (known as STAT3) which is activated in a variety of sarcomas. This transcription factor promotes the spread of cancer to other organs and also contributes to making the cancer resistant to chemotherapy. Sometimes our immune system is able to detect cancer cells and destroy them, but this STAT3 does even more damage by making the cancer cells invisible to the immune system. By blocking STAT3 production, cancer cells can become visible again and be destroyed.

In her work, Dr Meissner seeks to test the safety and effectiveness of a new drug STAT3 inhibitor in combination with Immunotherapy. The treatment will be offered to patients with sarcoma which has spread to other organs and failed previous treatments