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Research - what have we achieved so far

In 2006, Professor Adrienne Flanagan, from UCL Cancer Institute and The Royal National Orthopaedic Hospital, identified that chordomas express a marker known as brachyury, otherwise known as T. Brachyury, is involved in the normal development of the fetal notochord, a rod-like structure which turns into the intervertebal discs and vertebral bodies in the mature fetus. However, until this discovery, it was thought that this gene, brachyury, was expressed only in the embryo fetus and that it disappeared before birth. The origin of chordoma had perplexed pathologists for more than 200 years, and the link made between chordoma and brachyury finally confirmed that chordoma was a notochordal tumour. This was the first breakthrough in understanding the disease, and potentially holds the key to new treatments.

Professor Flanagan showed that brachyury was expressed in virtually all chordomas and could be used as a biomarker, and would help pathologists in making the diagnosis of this cancer. Before this, it was difficult for pathologists to distinguish chordoma from some other cancers such as chondrosarcoma, and carcinoma (a much more common form of cancer) for which the treatments are different. Brachyury is now recognised as the hallmark of the disease and is used globally for diagnosing this rare tumour.
Professor Flanagan's research team then showed that brachyury was required for the chordoma cells to grow / multiply. They achieved this by silencing / 'turning off' brachyury in chordoma cells in the laboratory. They also found that brachyury is a master regulator of other genes that make cells grow and migrate. Hence, if brachyury is 'silenced' many of the genes downstream of it are also silenced.
There is also some more recent evidence that the expression of brachyury may also play a role in some lung and colon cancers.

There are also other reasons for implicating brachyury in the development of chordoma. Those rare patients who have a family history of chordoma, carry a genetic abnormality in the brachyury gene. Furthermore, Dr Nischalan Pillay in Prof Flanagan's team showed that over 95% of Caucasian chordoma patients have a variation (an A substituted for a G) in the DNA sequence at a particular site on the brachyury gene.

Professor Flanagan's team now believe that it is important to 'silence' brachyury in the tumour cells if the disease is to be controlled.

News archive

April 2019

My Day Out – Classic Car Outing 2019

March 2019

Notochordal Cell Tumours Workshop Chordoma research prize

February 2019

Understanding Chordoma: A National Cohort Study

March 2018

Understanding Chordoma: A National Cohort Study

December 2017

Congratulations to Professor Adrienne Flanagan

August 2017

Why do one event when you can do two!

May 2017

UK chordoma patient choose Prague for his PBT...UK's first high-energy proton beam machine in...New Malden Farmers Market supports Chordoma UK

April 2017

Spring 2017 update from Chordoma UK and...Emma Holloway and "Team Chordoma" raises some...Thank you to the Tanner TrustParis marathon runner Alex raises almost...Charlotte raises £900 for Chordoma UK...Another London Marathon run for CUK

October 2016

What has McDonald's & chordoma got in common?...

August 2016

Chordoma Biobank coordinator Clare Unwin...

June 2016

Clare Unwin Joins CUK / UCL Cancer Institute..

January 2016

Chordoma UK funds UCL Cancer Institute Biobank...2016 London Marathon team runners - Ed and...

November 2015

You've broken the £400,000 milestone!

October 2015

CUK founders Gerald & Susan Fitz-Gibbon at...Still plenty of time to register for the Milan...

September 2015

Well done to Aimee & Steve with another...What an amazing fund raising weekend it was...Guitars on The Beach - another huge success...

July 2015

Angela's travels with her tumour.....Sean runs the the 8.5 mile Sutton fun run and...Aimee and Steve run the "Nuts Challenge for...

April 2015

GlobeImmune Announces Opening of Randomized...

March 2015

Oliver and Kate run their first marathon for...Wow….. $1/2m raised so far!

January 2015

The simple math that explains why you may (or...A great start to 2015

December 2014

Sue Puddicombe does it again!With the state of cancer diagnosis a source of...John Baron MP, chairman of the All Party...John Baron MP hosts and addresses ‘Cancer52’...

November 2014

Updating James's Story........ Exceptional Wallace Collection fundraiser for...Chordoma UK receives a bequest of £10,000.00News from GlobeImmune Inc following their...

October 2014

Some facts, figures and a little trumpet...Hollywood here we come…..Lord Darzi formally unveils plans today to...Tim runs for Chordoma UK

September 2014

Central London Gallery Event...

August 2014

With a quite extraordinary result for...Sarah Holdsworth - runs like mad for Chordoma...

June 2014

Dinner Dance, Ferrari's Country Hotel,...Reception at St James's PalaceFunds are needed NOW to develop new therapies...Raising funds for research and awareness...

May 2014


April 2014

Getting close to £100k !

March 2014

RAT RACE DIRTY WEEKEND. Ginny Major goes for it!The LONDON MARATHON.. Freddie, Joanne and...HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO US, HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO US.....Plans now being made for the Great River Race...Lots happening this spring.....

September 2013

NEW CHORDOMA UK WRISTBANDS AVAILABLE.ChordomaUK participating in London's 21 mile...

August 2013

Blood transfusions during cancer treatment... ...Imatinib.. (Glivec in the UK) often talked...New Initiative Launches to Organize the UK...Welcome Lisa....

June 2013

Researchers at Oxford University Hospitals are...Identification of repurposed small molecule...National Cancer Institute Opens First...Chordoma UK now joined the Cancer52 Alliance...Walkers raise over £2,500.00 for Chordoma UK

April 2013

Mail on Sunday article raises awareness

February 2013

Chi-chi Nwanoku & friends Chamber Concert benefitResearch - what have we achieved so far
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