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PhD student receives grant for research into bone cancer

Gitte Brinch Andersen, who is a PhD student at the Department of Biomedicine at Aarhus University, has just received a grant towards her PhD project. She carries out research into bone cancer, a type of cancer that often affects children.

Bone cancer affects five children every year in Denmark. The diagnosis is often made very late, as the symptoms are often confused with growing pains.

"Very little is known about the causes of this type of cancer, so there is a considerable need for more research into this disease to achieve a better survival rate for these very young patients, says Gitte Brinch Andersen.

In the case of every fourth child, the cancer has spread to other organs by the time they are diagnosed, with the result that only 15 - 20 per cent of the children are still alive after five years.

Gitte Brinch Andersen has received DKK 479,511 from Arvid Nilssons Foundation for her PhD project on bone cancer.

"I have identified several genes in this type of bone cancer that no longer function normally and which provide a deeper understanding of why these children suffer from the disease," she says.

Turning genes on and off

With cancer there are often errors in the mechanisms controlling which genes are turned on and which are switched off (epigenetics), so that the genes which normally prevent the development of cancer are the ones that are switched off.

"These changes can be reversed so that genes which have been turned off in cancer cells can be switched on again, thereby fighting the tumour cells from the inside," explains Gitte Brinch Andersen.

Completely new treatment strategies based on epigenetic changes in cancer cells have demonstrated great potential. The preliminary results indicate great opportunities in connection with both early diagnosis of the disease and future implementation of an epigenetic form of treatment for children with bone cancer.

Gitte Brinch Andersen has combined her Master's thesis with her PhD so that she has a total of four years to complete the project, which is carried out in close collaboration between the supervisors Lise Lotte Hansen from the Department of Biomedicine at Aarhus University and Jörg Tost, Director of Laboratory for Epigenetics and Environment at the Centre National de Génotypage (CNG) in Paris.

The grant from the Arvid Nilssons Foundation is made towards the operating expenses for carrying out further analysis based on the results of the project thus far. In addition to her PhD scholarship, which is financed by Health, Aarhus University, Gitte Brinch Andersen has also received funding for the project’s operating expenses from 12 foundations amounting to DKK 1,977,511.

Further information

PhD student Gitte Brinch Andersen
Aarhus University, Department of Biomedicine