Researchers find powerful predictor of bone cancer prognosis

January 7, 2010

( -- Scientists at the University of Toronto and The Hospital for Sick Children (SickKids) have discovered a powerful new tool that can help predict the prognosis for patients with bone cancer and help doctors more accurately determine how aggressively they need to treat specific patients. They found that the presence of a specific type of genetic mutation found in the tumours results in poorer outcomes for patients with osteosarcoma - the most common bone cancer in children and adolescents. The study is published in the current issue of Cancer Research.

The research team analyzed DNA from osteosarcoma patients and found a novel region called osteo3q13.31, which contains three genes that were previously not known to be involved in the disease. They used the presence or absence of a mutation in these genes - known as an osteo3q13.31 deletion - as an indicator to predict the disease outcome in osteosarcoma. They studied 49 patients and found that a deletion resulted in poorer outcomes.

"This marker is an incredibly powerful tool. If the deletion is present, this suggests that the patient would need more aggressive therapy than if it is absent," says principal investigator Dr. David Malkin, Paediatric Oncologist and Senior Scientist at SickKids, and Professor in the Department of Paediatrics at the University of Toronto. "Hopefully, we would be able to avoid over treating patients who don't need the most aggressive therapy, while ensuring that we aren't under treating those who do."

The advent of high-resolution technologies allowed the scientists to look at regions of DNA with much more clarity. The scientists used a high-resolution tool called single-nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) array to look at copy number alteration (CNA). CNA is a genetic phenomenon that occurs when some regions of the DNA are duplicated or deleted. Normally genes are present in two copies, with one copy inherited from each parent. CNAs are often found in osteosarcoma.

Every year, there are about 300 new cases of osteosarcoma in Canada, most of which occur in adolescents and young adults. The survival rate of about 65 per cent has not changed in about two decades. While the first step is to use the new marker as a prognostic tool, Malkin says it may eventually be used as a therapeutic target, ultimately leading to improved survival rates for osteosarcoma. Down the road, the marker may also be able to help determine prognosis in tissue cancers including carcinomas and sarcomas, he explains.

The research was supported by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research and SickKids Foundation.

Related Stories

Recommended for you

Clinical trial suggests new cell therapy for relapsed leukemia patients

November 20, 2017
A significant proportion of children and young adults with treatment-resistant B-cell leukemia who participated in a small study achieved remission with the help of a new form of gene therapy, according to researchers at ...

Researchers discover a new target for 'triple-negative' breast cancer

November 20, 2017
So-called "triple-negative" breast cancer is a particularly aggressive and difficult-to-treat form. It accounts for only about 10 percent of breast cancer cases, but is responsible for about 25 percent of breast cancer fatalities.

Study reveals new mechanism used by cancer cells to disarm attacking immune cells

November 20, 2017
A new study by researchers at The Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center - James Cancer Hospital and Solove Research Institute (OSUCCC - James) identifies a substance released by pancreatic cancer cells that protects ...

Cell-weighing method could help doctors choose cancer drugs

November 20, 2017
Doctors have many drugs available to treat multiple myeloma, a type of blood cancer. However, there is no way to predict, by genetic markers or other means, how a patient will respond to a particular drug. This can lead to ...

Lung cancer triggers pulmonary hypertension

November 17, 2017
Shortness of breath and respiratory distress often increase the suffering of advanced-stage lung cancer patients. These symptoms can be triggered by pulmonary hypertension, as scientists at the Max Planck Institute for Heart ...

Researchers discover an Achilles heel in a lethal leukemia

November 16, 2017
Researchers have discovered how a linkage between two proteins in acute myeloid leukemia enables cancer cells to resist chemotherapy and showed that disrupting the linkage could render the cells vulnerable to treatment. St. ...


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.