Osteosarcoma: a case study

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Osteosarcoma is a cancerous tumour in bone. It is the most common form of primary bone cancer. It is prevalent in children and young adults. Patients complain about pain worsening at night and recurring all the time. Teenagers who are active in sports tend to complain about pain in their lower femur, or right below the knee. If the tumour is large, it can appear as a swelling. Sometimes a sudden fracture of bone is the first symptom because affected bone is not as strong as normal bones and may fracture with minor trauma (a pathological fracture).

The route to osteosarcoma diagnosis usually begins with an X-ray, continues with a combination of scans (CT scan, PET scan, bone scan, MRI) and ends with a surgical biopsy. A complete, radical, surgical resection of the cancer, is the treatment of choice in case of osteosarcoma. Patients with osteosarcoma are best managed by medical oncologist and orthopedic oncologist experienced in managing sarcomas. Current treatment standard is to use chemotherapy before surgery.

The best reported 10-year survival rate is 92%. Overall, 65-70% patients treated five years ago will be alive today. These survival rates are overall averages and vary greatly depending on the individual necrosis rate.

Osteosarcoma is the most common bone tumour in dogs and typically afflicts middle-aged large and giant breed dogs such as Irish wolfhounds, Grey Hounds, German Shepherd, Mountain breeds and Great Danes.

Elizabeth Roberts drove as long as eight hours carrying her 12 year Labrador Retriever named Scooby Doo into the back of her SUV all for an experimental osteosarcoma clinical trial that has extended Scooby Doo’s life expectancy from one year to going on three years now. This treatment’s immense success has led to the approval by the US Food and Drug Administration for a trial in children who develop this cancer.

It is the latest advancement in animal research that is making its way into human medicine. As dogs and cats become more like family members to pet owners, veterinary medicine has become increasingly like human medicine. Vet schools offer specialty training like oncology, nutrition and orthopedics; cutting-edge therapeutic treatments like 3D-printed bones and stem cell therapy were developed to help ensure our pets have long and healthy lives.

The bone cancer shows up in patients as young as 10 and there are 400 human cases a year, with sufferers facing amputation or surgery followed by chemotherapy. While humans have 70% survival chances after chemotherapy, dogs are usually given a death sentence. Some of the first dogs treated back in 2012, including Scooby Doo, are still alive three years later.

The vaccine is currently being evaluated by the US Department of Agriculture for a conditional license, which would allow dogs outside the trial to get treatment by the middle of next year. For human patients, the vaccine could go into clinical trials as early as this year. In 2007, the American Medical Association and the American Veterinary Medical Association passed a resolution to work closer together for the benefit of humans and animal medicine.




Written by Ankita Roy

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