Breaking the Bone Cancer Code

Genomic research seeks personalized treatment for osteosarcoma

(RxWiki News) Osteosarcoma - a rare cancer of the bone - has been difficult to treat. Now scientists are looking at the genetic make-up of young people with the disease in hopes of finding better ways to diagnose and treat it.

Using advances in genomic research and analysis, a new study into osteosarcoma aims to identify genes that may cause the condition and create personalized blood tests for children and young adults with the condition.

"Genomic research may result in better diagnosis of osteosarcoma."

Osteosarcoma, a form of bone cancer, is not common - only about 900 new cases are diagnosed in the United States every year. About 400 of these are in children and adolescents younger than 20 years old. Teenagers are the most commonly affected age group, but osteosarcoma can occur at any age. Its causes are not well known.

This painful cancer is usually treated with chemotherapy and surgery. Monitoring progress and measuring treatment responses currently rely on scanning and imaging studies.

Professor Adrienne Flanagan from the UCL Cancer Institute and Medical Director of the Royal National Orthopaedic Hospital (RNOH), has previously worked with colleagues from the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute. This team discovered a new gene mutation that causes chondrosarcoma, the second most common cancer of bone. The results of this study were published recently online in the The Journal of Pathology.

In this new collaborative study, scientists from UCL Cancer Institute and the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute will use recently developed methods to search for changes in the genomes of cancer patients. The objective is to pinpoint the genes involved with this bone cancer.

At the same time, researchers will develop new tools to monitor the disease in patients through the course of treatment, with the intent of replacing scanning with bloodwork.

The team will sequence the complete genome of 50 patients with osteosarcoma and will examine the plasma in many of these patients before and after chemotherapy treatment to find DNA changes.

It is hoped that this unique profile of genetic mutations in each patient's cancer will enable scientists to develop personalized treatments.

The study is funded by Skeletal Cancer Action Trust, SCAT.

Review Date: 
June 22, 2011