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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


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April 2017

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August 2016

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June 2016

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January 2016

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November 2015

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October 2015

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September 2015

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July 2015

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April 2015

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March 2015

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January 2015

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December 2014

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October 2014

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August 2014

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June 2014

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May 2014

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April 2014

Getting close to £100k !

March 2014

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September 2013

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August 2013

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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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