What is osteosarcoma?
Osteosarcoma is the most common type of bone cancer in children. It often originates in the long bones of the body that include the thigh bone, the shinbone, or the bone that runs from the shoulder to the elbow, called the humerus.
While osteosarcoma frequently starts in a particular bone, it can potentially move to other sites in the body, such as the lungs and other bones. This movement, known as metastasis, often makes the disease more difficult to treat.
A type of childhood cancer, osteosarcoma is commonly found in children children, teens, and young adults between the ages of 10 and 30. Patients who are 10-20 years of age account for 60% of osteosarcoma cases.
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What are the signs and symptoms of osteosarcoma?
- Swelling of the bone that can cause persistent pain
- Bone fracture that can happen all of a sudden or after minor bumps
- A limp (if the tumor affects the leg)
How is osteosarcoma diagnosed?
Blood tests and imaging to view the involved bone(s) are used to diagnosis kids with osteosarcoma. Additionally, a biopsy may be needed.
What treatment options are available for children with osteosarcoma?
Treatments for osteosarcoma may include surgery and chemotherapy.
- Surgery: Surgery to remove the entire cancer to prevent it from returning.
- Chemotherapy: a cancer treatment that uses drugs to stop the growth of cancer cells, either by killing the cells or by stopping them from dividing.
How is research helping to fight this type of cancer?
Osteosarcoma is prone to metastasize (spread to other sites in the body) and when it does, it becomes more difficult to cure. Kids with metastasized osteosarcoma need more options.
To help provide these options, St. Baldrick’s is funding work in Dr. E. Alejandro Sweet-Cordero’s laboratory, to better understand what allows tumor cells to survive and grow at metastatic sites. They are also working to define better therapies to kill metastatic tumor cells when they are still small, before they have a chance to grow.
By using advanced sequencing approaches Dr. Sweet-Cordero is working to understand how tumors change once they metastasize and testing several new combination therapies to determine whether they are able to kill small metastasis.
Among the many other osteosarcoma research projects funded by St. Baldrick’s is the work of Dr. Alex Huang and his team. They tested Vactosertib, an adult pancreatic cancer drug, for its effect on preventing the growth and metastasis of osteosarcoma cells in models. These pre-clinical results provided the foundation for its recent FDA Orphan Drug Designation approval.
“The FDA Orphan Drug Designation approval opens a realistic path to testing Vactosertib in combination with other immune modulating therapies for the treatment of therapy-refractory sarcoma affecting the pediatric and adolescent and young adult population,” Dr. Huang said. The drug manufacturer MedPacto and Dr. Huang are now working to create a clinical trial for further testing.
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