UCL Cancer Institute


Edward Showler Foundation and UCL partner to accelerate research into clear cell sarcoma

22 July 2021

The Edward Showler Foundation and UCL have forged a philanthropic partnership that will support pioneering research into clear cell sarcoma (CCS) – a rare type of soft tissue cancer with few available treatments.

Edward Showler and Nischalan Pillay

The partnership will enable the creation of the Edward Showler Foundation Clear Cell Sarcoma Research Programme, a four-year initiative led by Dr Nischalan Pillay (Sarcoma Biology and Genomics Group Leader and Honorary Consultant Histopathologist) and supported by Dr Sandra Strauss (Senior Clinical Lecturer and Honorary Consultant Medical Oncologist) at UCL Cancer Institute.

The programme is dedicated to the memory of Dr Edward Showler (‘Ed’), who had been training to become a haematologist when he was diagnosed with the disease in 2016. He sadly died eight and a half months later.

Ed’s family and friends established the Edward Showler Foundation with the aim of making a difference for young people affected by sarcoma – and CCS in particular – by increasing awareness, engaging with patients and families, and supporting research into this rare disease.

Understanding sarcoma genomics

Clear Cell Sarcoma (CCS) is a sub-type of sarcoma that usually arises near tendons, especially in the feet and hands. It primarily affects young adults between 20 and 40 years old and the prognosis is poor in comparison to other cancers.

At present, no effective medical treatments for CCS exist due to the historical lack of research focusing exclusively on the disease. The cancer usually proves resistant to existing drugs and therapies, which have been used to successfully treat or halt the progression of other cancers.

The Edward Showler Foundation Clear Cell Sarcoma Research Programme will take a fresh approach to studying the disease, with the aim of fuelling much-needed research progress. Using tissue samples donated by patients and stored at national biobanks, including the UCL/UCLH Biobank for Studying Health and Disease, the researchers will employ the latest genome-sequencing technologies to uncover the genetic mechanisms that cause CCS to develop and grow.

Over the next four years, the programme will also draw upon the world-leading expertise of UCL’s partner hospitals, including the London Sarcoma Service (at UCLH and RNOH) to consent new and existing patients with CCS who wish to participate in the programme’s research.

Through this work, the team hopes to gain a comprehensive understanding of the genomic landscape of CCS and improve knowledge of both the disease’s progression and its resistance to conventional treatments. They will then apply their findings to clinical trials with the aim of identifying new and effective avenues for treatment.

 “We are delighted to be working with the Edward Showler Foundation to establish such a comprehensive research programme into clear cell sarcoma,” said Dr Pillay. “Research of this scope and scale into such a rare cancer represents a unique opportunity to advance our understanding of CCS and transform outcomes for patients. None of this would be possible without the Foundation’s support.”

Research and education to advance new therapies

The partnership will also support the pipeline of future researchers in this area by recruiting and training two new specialists – a technician and a bio-informatician - to drive forward the research as part of Dr Pillay’s research group at the UCL Cancer Institute.

“We are excited by the proposed research programme at UCL, which will bring much-needed understanding to the genetic causes and drivers of clear cell sarcoma, and will hopefully be of benefit to future patients who are diagnosed with this terrible disease,” said John and Ellie Showler – Ed’s parents, and founders and trustees of the Edward Showler Foundation.

“As a doctor, Ed firmly believed in the potential of pioneering medical treatments to improve the lives of his patients. In combining cutting-edge research techniques and approaches, the Edward Showler Foundation Clear Cell Sarcoma Research Programme represents a fitting tribute to his life, work, and vision.”

Further information

Learn more about the work of the Edward Showler Foundation, or make a gift to support this project.

For further information on supporting the Edward Showler Foundation Clear Cell Sarcoma Research Programme, please contact:
Boaz Walker, Senior Philanthropy Manager (Health) boaz.walker@ucl.ac.uk

Main Image: Left to right, Dr Edward Showler (courtesy of The Edward Showler Foundation) and Dr Nischalan Pillay