COLUMBUS, Ohio – Cancer researchers at The Ohio State University Medical Center have found that patients with chondrosarcoma – a rare form of bone cancer – often have poorer outcomes when the tumor cells contain a higher-than-normal number of a certain gene.
The scientists discovered that the cancer is likely to be more aggressive when a gene called MYC (pronounced mick) is present in high numbers.
“When that gene is amplified, we know that a patient will have a poor prognosis because the cancer is more likely to progress,” said Dr. Joel Mayerson, assistant professor of orthopedic surgery and director of musculoskeletal oncology at Ohio State.
The findings suggest that patients who have the amplified gene may be excellent candidates for future clinical trials testing newer treatments other than surgery.
The finding may help lead to new targeted drug therapies, including chemotherapy, to fight this cancer, Mayerson said.
Chondrosarcoma is a rare type of bone cancer that forms in cartilage and affects about 600 to 700 patients – usually middle-aged and older adults – each year in the United States. The five-year survival rate is 90 percent for early-stage tumors, but drops to just 20 percent for more advanced-stage tumors. This type of cancer often mimics the signs of arthritis, making it difficult to diagnose.
“Unfortunately, we don’t know what causes chondrosarcoma, and the only treatment is surgery,” said Mayerson, who also is co-director of the bone tumor clinic at Columbus Children’s Hospital. “Chemotherapy and radiation therapy have no effect on it.”
Dr. Carl Morrison, an assistant professor of pathology at Ohio State and lead author of the paper, along with Mayerson and other OSU researchers, published their findings in a recent issue of the Journal of Clinical Oncology. Their study demonstrated a new predictor of outcome for patients with this condition. The paper is the first of its kind for this type of tumor, Mayerson said.
“No one has ever found a molecular marker that can differentiate between good and bad prognosis for patients with chondrosarcoma,” Mayerson said. “This is likely due to the fact that the tumor is quite rare, and most cancer centers do not see enough these patients to perform meaningful laboratory studies in a timely fashion.”
For this research, the OSU researchers examined 116 cartilage samples from 15 frozen tumor samples and found that the cancer tends to be more aggressive when the MYC gene is amplified, Mayerson said.
“Hopefully in the future we will be able to manipulate cancer genes, and targeting MYC expression may be a future treatment pathway to improve survival for patients with this tumor,” Mayerson said.# # #
Medical Center Communications