An Update from Christine Hawkins

This week, CIKA received an update on the work being undertaken by Christine Hawkins using LCL161, a new anticancer agent in the treatment of osteosarcoma, a childhood cancer with a relatively poor prognosis.  This work has been currently funded by Tour de Cure, the The Kids’ Cancer Project and Cancer Council Victoria.

Here is what Chris wrote.

Our research was impeded last year because lab access was restricted, but fortunately we’ve received exemption permits during the recent lockdowns so our productivity has been close to normal this year.

When I gave the presentation to CIKA in 2019, I talked about how we’d discovered that drugs of the newly developed “Smac mimetic” class could kill osteosarcoma cells in vitro, and that they could target osteosarcomas growing in the legs of mice. Since then, we’ve been focussed on defining efficacy against metastatic osteosarcomas, because metastases account for most deaths from osteosarcoma.

We’ve developed five mouse models of osteosarcoma growing in the lungs of mice, and have been assessing the efficacy of our favourite Smac mimetic (LCL161) in each of these models. We recently published data from the first two models – in which immunodeficient mice have tumours derived from human osteosarcomas growing in their lungs. The link to the article is here: Excitingly, LCL161 could treat established lung metastases, and even cured some of the mice. We’re currently testing efficacy in immunocompetent mice bearing lung tumours derived from mouse osteosarcomas, so that we can examine cooperation between the immune system and LCL161. Our preliminary data from the first of these models looks good – LCL161 has substantially prolonged survival and we’re hoping that we may cure some mice (the experiment is still ongoing so we might not know for a several more weeks). Next, we’re planning to assess cooperation between various chemotherapy drugs and LCL161 using these metastatic osteosarcoma models, to define the optimal therapy for osteosarcoma patients.

We are very grateful to Christine for the work that she is doing and wish her success in her efforts to contribute to the elimination of  this cruel disease that affects the lives of so many.