Breaking the Spread of Bone Cancer

Osteosarcoma metastasis may be prevented with ezrin inhibitor

(RxWiki News) The most common form of bone cancer in kids is osteosarcoma. If it's caught and treated earlier, the outlook is pretty good. If it has spread to the lungs, the prospects aren't so good. A team of researchers may have found a life-saving way to prevent this cancer from moving.

Researchers have discovered an agent that may stop osteosarcoma in its tracks and keep this bone cancer from metastasizing to the lung, an event that can be deadly.

The molecule effectively prevented the cancer from spreading to the lungs in mice that had the disease.

"If your teen complains of bone pain, get it checked out."

Investigators at Georgetown Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center worked with this agent in an animal study. They found it blocks or stops a protein called "ezrin" that plays a critical role in the spread of osteosarcoma.

Results from this study were presented at the American Association of Cancer Research (AACR) Annual Meeting 2012, held March 31-April 4, 2012.

Osteosarcoma usually strikes youngsters during periods of rapid growth in the teenage years. It normally shows up in the shin, thigh or upper arm, and symptoms may be a bone fracture, limping or bone pain. The bone cancer also appears in people over the age of 60.

"If we can prevent metastatic disease in osteosarcoma, we will significantly improve survival and quality of life for these patients," says the study's senior investigator, Aykut Üren, M.D., an associate professor of oncology, and of biochemistry and molecular & cellular biology at Georgetown Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center. 

Researchers discovered a molecule that's works to block ezrin, which is found in many cells in the body, including cancer cells. The protein controls cell interaction, movement and survival in new locations.

Osteosarcoma cells that have a lot of ezrin are usually more aggressive and more likely to relocate to the lungs. 

"Having too much ezrin makes it easier for cancer cells to move to the lungs and, once there, it gives these cells a growth advantage,"  explained  Üren.

If the development of this ezrin inhibitor goes well, it could be useful in blocking the spread of other cancers, including breast, colon, ovarian and brain tumors, as well as melanoma and soft tissue sarcomas.

While researchers are enthusiastic about this discovery,  Üren says that "we are far from our ultimate goal of using this in humans."

The study was funded by a peer reviewed grant from The Children's Cancer Foundation® of Baltimore, Md. and the Department of Defense.

Several of the scientists involved in this study are named as co-inventors on a patent application that has been filed by Georgetown University related to technology described in this abstract. 

Review Date: 
April 3, 2012