ANZSA Sarcoma Research Grant 2021 - Dr Fernando Guimaraes


Development of a natural killer cell-based immunotherapy for rhabdomyosarcoma

ANZSA is proud to announce that one of two Sarcoma Research Grants has been awarded to Dr Fernando Guimaraes from The University of Queensland Diamantina Institute.

Dr Guimaraes’ research aims to develop a natural killer (NK) cell-based immunotherapy for rhabdomyosarcoma (RMS), a rare type of sarcoma cancer that forms in soft tissue – specifically skeletal muscle tissue or sometimes hollow organs such as the bladder or uterus.

RMS can occur at any age, but it most often affects children. Sadly, the survival rate in high-risk RMS is only around 20%-30%. Refractory or recurrent RMS in children has shown resistance to conventional chemotherapy. Therefore, there is a critical need for more effective and innovative therapeutic approaches such as immunotherapy.

Natural killer cells are a type of white blood cell that is known for their ability to kill cancer cells. NK cells express receptors on their surface that can stop the NK cells from killing. Dr Guimaraes’ research aims to demonstrate that this receptor inhibition can be lifted to allow NK cells to kill high-risk RMS cells more effectively.

The research will also aim to provide the basis for a subsequent clinical trial using NK cells to treat patients with high-risk RMS and improve their chance of survival.

In the long term, Dr Guimaraes hopes to generate NK cells that are resistant to immunosuppressive factors and further tailor them as therapeutics that have higher efficacy and lower adverse effects than existing cancer treatments.

The ANZSA Sarcoma Research Grant 2021 is generously funded by the Kicking Goals for Xavier Foundation, Stoney’s Steps, Hannah’s Chance Foundation and ANZSA through our many generous individual donors.