Alice’s Arc visit Wellcome Sanger Institute

On the 4th July 2022, we were delighted to visit the Wellcome Sanger Institute. The purpose of the visit was to discuss progress on research entitled ‘Identification and evaluation of foetal immune targets in rhabdomyosarcoma’. This project involves collaborators led by Dr Sam Behjati at Wellcome Sanger, Dr Karin Straathof’s team at UCL Great Ormond Street Institute of Child Health and Professor Janet Shipley’s team at the Institute of Cancer Research.

Alice’s Arc is co-funding this project building on an Innovation Award from Cancer Research UK and Children with Cancer UK. Funding from Alice’s Arc has contributed towards libraries and sequencing as part of the Wellcome Sanger work package designed to perform detailed cell-by cell analysis. Alice’s Arc is funding the work packages at UCL and the ICR. These involve the design of CAR T-cell treatment for rhabdomyosarcoma and the study of 3D models to assess whether the models are molecularly similar to tumour cells in patients, including tumours from patients at relapse.

Each team gave an update regarding their work package. A summary of progress on the project is below:

  • The team at Wellcome Sanger have been analysing the relationship between rhabdomyosarcoma cells and non-cancer cells. The communication between these cells in the tumour micro environment can often make tissue more stiff which makes it harder for immune cells to fight these cells leading to cells becoming more resistant to treatment.
  • The team at UCL GOSH ICH have been exploring the feasibility of different targets that can be used to engineer T-cells. They have identified several targets to take forward and assess. They have been testing different antibodies that recognise these targets and starting to engineer the initial CAR T-cells.
  • The team at the ICR have been preparing living 3D models representative of alveolar rhabdomyosarcoma. These models will then be used in functional studies that will help find new therapeutic targets. They include gene fusion models where the fusion protein can be switched on and off to assess changes in cell appearance and. They also include the development of patient-derived models to use to assess the CAR T-cells.


The day also involved a tour of the Wellcome Sanger laboratories and sequencing technology. In addition, we gave Dr Sam Behjati an assortment of well-being bags for rhabdomyosarcoma patients at Addenbrookes hospital and toys donated through company fundraisers for the paediatric cancer wards. Click here to find out more about Dr Sam Behjati and his lab.

It is always such a learning-experience to see the research in action and we are grateful to Sanger for hosting and the research updates given by each team. Bridging the gap between the science and the patient/family community is vital.

Thank you so much to all our supporters. Your donations are enabling this critical work to happen. We are so very grateful. And, just think of those families who will face rhabdomyosarcoma in the future. This is what will make a difference for them.



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