Faculty of Medical Sciences


Sarcoma Research Group

Theme Leader

Kenneth Rankin

Major Research Themes

Bone and soft tissue sarcomas continue to cause disproportionate pain and suffering to patients ranging from children to older adults.  Surgery is required in most cases and there is a need to refine our techniques.  Our research is underpinned by basic science projects investigating aspects of tumour extra-cellular matrix and relevant cancer cell surface interactions in order to develop improved strategies in the surgical setting to improve outcomes.


The group includes surgeons, oncologists, clinician scientists, basic scientists and epidemiologists.  Methodology involves optimisation of handling of sarcoma blood and tissue samples for downstream analysis.  More recently we have collaborated closely with Dr Daniel Frankel at the School of Chemical Engineering to investigate the mechanical properties of solid cancers in order to provide novel insights into this unexplored area.

Key collaborations

Key collaborations include the pre-clinical evaluation of promising therapeutics which are in close proximity to the clinic including matrix metalloproteinase activated 'theranostics' for the enhancement of pre-operative imaging for sarcoma.  This is in collaboration with Dr Jason Gill, recently appointed Reader in Molecular Therapeutics at the NICR.

 National collaborations include the optimisation of circulating tumour cell detection in blood samples from patients with bone sarcoma.  Samples are received from London, Birmingham and Edinburgh.

Developing researchers

The group has a strong recent track record for delivery of student projects with 9 MRes/MSc students since 2011.  Currently there are 2 PhD students, 2 postdoctoral scientists and 1 technician at the NICR.  There are regular laboratory meetings held both within the sarcoma group and with other groups working on related areas such as detection of circulating biomarkers.

Impact and engagement

The set up in Newcastle upon Tyne is unique with the North of England Bone and Sof Tissue Tumour Service hosted at the Newcastle upon Tyne University Hospitals NHS Foundations Trust providing direct access to sarcoma blood and tumour samples.   Newcastle is the only sarcoma service in the UK that has all clinical and research (basic science through to translational) disciplines on one site which is leading to increasing publications in the field and a strong presence at national meetings.

Research Strategy

Our research strategy is to accelerate the evaluation of therapeutic strategies and discovery of biomarkers for sarcoma patients.  Key to this is the streamlining of blood and tissue sample collection both on the NHS and University sites.  We are also increasing interactions locally, nationally and internationally in order to develop multidisciplinary working which will be important for external validation of our work and to improve translation of promising projects into the clinic.

How will this research benefit the associated clinical services?

Surgery is still the cornerstone of treatment for most bone and soft tissue sarcomas.  Our research aims to improve our pre-operative planning and therefore subsequent intra-operative surgical tactics and post-operative follow-up. Our recently opened clinical study SARCOpet which involves the MRI/PET evaluation of myxofibrosarcomas to improve pre-operative planning is an example of a project translating to the clinic with the potential to change the surgical management of our patients for the better https://sarcoma.org.uk/research/funded-projects/does-pet-mri-myxofibrosarcoma-improve-local-staging-disease-compared

Staff List

Karen Blakey
Research Assistant

Telephone: +44 (0) 191 282 1347

Telephone: +44 (0) 191 208 4415

Craig Gerrand
Consultant Orthopaedic Surgeon

Professor John Lunec
Gillespie Prof of Molecular Oncology

Telephone: +44 (0) 191 208 4420

Professor Derek Manas
Hon Clin Prof of Transplantation

Dr Richard McNally
Reader in Epidemiology

Telephone: +44 (0) 191 282 1356

Kenneth Rankin
Clinical Fellow/Honorary Consultant

Telephone: 0191 222 3849