What’s new in osteosarcoma research?
Research on the causes and treatment of this cancer is now being done at many medical centers around the world.
Researchers are making progress in learning about the causes of osteosarcoma and the DNA changes that cause this cancer. This knowledge could lead to treatments to correct these changes.
Great progress has been made in treating osteosarcoma in the past few decades. Still, more research is needed to learn how best to manage hard-to-treat osteosarcomas, such as those that have already spread when they are found.
Doctors now know much more about the growth and spread of osteosarcomas than they did in the past. This, along with newer imaging tests, allows them to plan surgeries that remove the cancer while leaving as much normal tissue as they can.
Some newer, man-made devices used to replace pieces of bone (internal prostheses) can now be made longer without the need for further surgery. This is especially important for children, who in the past often needed several operations to replace the prosthesis with a larger one as they grew.
Osteosarcoma cells are not killed easily by radiation, so high doses are needed to have an effect. This has limited the use of radiation, because such high doses can often cause bad side effects. Newer forms of radiation let doctors focus the radiation more right on the tumor. This limits the doses received by nearby healthy tissues and may allow higher doses to be used on the tumor itself.
Clinical trials are being done to figure out the best combinations of chemo drugs, as well as the best time to give them. Newer chemo drugs are being studied, too.
The lungs are the most common place for osteosarcoma to spread. Inhaled forms of some chemo drugs are being studied for patients whose cancer has spread to their lungs. Early results have shown promise.
Other new forms of treatment
Clinical trials are looking into ways to help the patient’s own immune system recognize and attack the osteosarcoma cells. A new drug called muramyl tripeptide (MTP) has been shown to help some patients when added to chemotherapy.
Doctors are also looking at new medicines that are aimed at certain molecules on the cancer cells. These are known as targeted therapies. Some of these are man-made versions of immune system proteins called monoclonal antibodies.
Other drugs that target the bone cells called osteoclasts may also be useful against osteosarcoma. Bisphosphonates are a group of drugs that are already used to treat bone thinning and certain cancers that have spread to the bone. Some of these drugs, as well as others that affect the bones, are now being studied for use in patients with osteosarcoma.
Last Medical Review: 01/24/2013
Last Revised: 01/24/2013