Researchers Study Potential Target for New Osteosarcoma Drug

Blocking the protein UHRF1 in mice with the bone cancer osteosarcoma may dramatically reduce the cancer’s spread and increase survival.

Grantee: Claudia Benavente, PhD
Institution: The Regents of the University of California, Irvine
Area of Focus: DNA Mechanisms in Cancer 
Grant Term: 7/1/2019 to 6/30/2023

Osteosarcoma is the most common type of bone cancer and most often occurs in children and young adults. People with osteosarcoma that has not spread to other areas of the body (known as metastasis) have a better chance of living for at least 5 years after the diagnosis compared to someone whose cancer has metastasized. To develop new treatments, researchers need to better understand what causes the cancer to metastasize.

In previous studies, Claudia Benavente, PhD, and her research team found a protein called UHRF1 that builds up in osteosarcoma tumors to help them grow, and can possibly help researchers learn how these tumors spread. She and her team focused on how the UHRF1 protein in mice with osteosarcoma interacts with the RB1 gene, which helps stop tumors from growing. Their results suggest that blocking the buildup of UHRF1 in the tumor may help dramatically reduce the spread of osteosarcoma in mice, and increase their survival.

With this grant, Benavente is working to better define the role of UHRF1 and hopes the research her team is doing can lead to the development of a new type of osteosarcoma drug to target the UHRF1 protein.

Why does it matter? UHRF1 builds up in other cancers, including certain types of breast, prostate, and lung cancer. If Benavente’s work proves to be helpful, it has the potential to help not only children with osteosarcoma but also adults with other types of cancer.