Research projects

Understanding the cause of synovial sarcoma to improve survival

Dr Gerard Brien
Project period
Apr 2021 - Apr 2024
Research Institute
Trinity College Dublin
Cancer types
Award amount

Project aim

Dr Gerard Brien and his team are trying to better understand a genetic mutation that causes a rare, but aggressive form of sarcoma that mainly affects children and young people.

Hope for the future

Synovial sarcoma is a rare and often aggressive type of cancer that affects mainly young people. Many patients don’t respond well to treatment and less than 4 in 10 people survive their diagnosis for 5 years or longer, although this can vary depending on where the tumour has grown.

Dr Brien and his team are now trying to understand more about the underlying cause of synovial sarcoma. They hope that the results from this project will allow them to guide the development of better and more effective treatments in the future.


Meet the scientist

Dr Gerard Brien grew up in the countryside and has always loved the outdoors. When he’s not in the lab, he enjoys anything that's outdoors and active - hiking, running, biking and swimming are all favourites: “It's great to be out in the fresh air away from the stresses of everyday life!”.

The science

Synovial sarcoma is a cancer that can affect any part of the body but is most commonly found around the knee where it develops from cells in the joints and tendons. Unfortunately, many synovial sarcoma tumours don’t respond well to treatments. This is problematic not only because of the relatively low survival rates, but because treatments can cause side effects and reduce quality of life in patients.

Like any other cancer, synovial sarcoma is caused by mutations in our DNA. Dr Gerard Brien and his team are now investigating one particular mutation called SS18-SSX, which is known to be involved in the development of synovial sarcoma. By using sophisticated experimental techniques, they are gaining a better understanding of how this mutation causes synovial sarcoma. The team hopes that their results can be used to develop more effective treatments for synovial sarcoma in the future.

Childhood cancers are rarer than those that occur in adults but, because they're rare, they haven't been well studied. I think that the work we're doing can have a big impact on the treatment of these diseases, that's what keeps me motivated!
Dr Gerard Brien

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