Hannah Francis’s legacy is as strong as ever, as the charity she founded announces its sixth research project into bone cancer.
Hannah’s Willberry Wonder Pony Charity is funding a PhD study, based at Middlesex University. The research, led by senior lecturer Helen Roberts, will investigate the way rare cancer osteosarcoma spreads to other tissues and organs.
The charity was established by eventer Hannah in March 2016, five months before she died aged 18 from the aggressive cancer.
“Hannah was determined to ensure that no-one with a diagnosis of osteosarcoma in the future would have to endure the bleak prospects and archaic treatment regime that she experienced,” a spokesman for the charity said.
Survival rates in osteosarcoma patients have not changed, partly owing to a lack of research into why the cancer spreads, and what causes this.
Dr Roberts said: “I am delighted that Hannah’s Willberry Wonder Pony Charity has given me the opportunity to investigate why osteosarcoma tumours metastasise to the lungs. Along with our collaborators at the Royal Veterinary College [RVC; University of London], we plan to use cutting-edge cell-based assays to define not only the role of the bone cells, but also the lung environment.”
The project will draw on the tissue engineering experience of Scott Roberts, senior lecturer in translational skeletal research, RVC, who has spent years developing laboratory-grown tissues that can be used for regenerative medicine and investigation of disease processes.
The 60-year-old is taking part in his first event in two weeks' time, 10 months after he first took to
Dr Roberts said: “I am very excited to collaborate on this project. We have built up a great deal of knowledge of how to replicate disease processes using tissue engineering which, along with our current understanding of osteosarcoma biology, should allow us to identify drug targets that specifically suppress tumour metastasis.”
The team has recruited student Daniela Paternina, who will join Middlesex University in April.
Rachel Francis, of the charity, said: “We’re very excited to be announcing this new project, which is our sixth and the first PhD programme that we’re fully funding. It also represents our first engagement with Middlesex University and we look forward to working with Helen, Daniela and the team.
“Hannah would be amazed to see that her charity is already funding six projects and we’re so proud of her and her continuing legacy.”
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