Bone cancer

You are here: 

Research in bone cancer

We are always learning more about cancer. Researchers and healthcare professionals use what they learn from research studies to develop better practices that will help find and treat bone cancer. They are also looking for ways to improve the quality of life of people with bone cancer.

The following is a selection of research showing promise for bone cancer. We’ve included information from PubMed, which is the research database of the National Library of Medicine. Each research article in PubMed has an identity number (called a PMID) that links to a brief overview (called an abstract). We have also included links to abstracts of the research presented at meetings of the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO), which are held throughout the year.

Diagnosis and prognosis

A key area of research looks at better ways to diagnose and stage bone cancer. Researchers are also trying to find ways to help doctors predict a prognosis (the probability that the cancer can be successfully treated or that it will come back after treatment). The following is noteworthy research into diagnosis and prognosis.

Biomarkers are substances, such as proteins, genes or pieces of genetic material like DNA and RNA, that are found naturally in the body. They can be measured in body fluids like blood and urine or tissue that has been removed from the body. A gene mutation or a change in the normal amount of a biomarker can help doctors predict the prognosis or response to treatment in people with bone cancer. Researchers are looking at the following biomarkers to see if they can help doctors diagnose and predict a prognosis for a person with osteosarcoma, which is the most common type of bone cancer:

  • human epidermal growth factor receptor 2 (HER2 or ERBB2) (ASCO, Abstract e21504)
  • carcinoembryonic antigen related adhesion molecule 1 (CEACAM1) (PLoS One, PMID 2704014)
  • matrix metalloproteinase-3 (MMP-3) (Journal of B.U.O.N., PMID 27061553)
  • survivin (Medical Science Monitor, PMID 26408642)

IDH1 is a gene that tells the body to make an enzyme called isocitrate dehydrogenase. This enzyme helps protect cells from harmful substances. Researchers have found changes (called mutations) to the IDH1 gene in several different types of cancer. A study looked at the role of IDH1 mutations with a type of bone cancer called chondrosarcoma. It found that people with chondrosarcoma that had mutations in the IDH1 gene did not survive as long as people with chondrosarcoma that didn’t have these mutations (ASCO, Abstract 11024).

Find out more about research in diagnosis and prognosis.


Researchers are looking for new ways to improve treatment for bone cancer. Advances in cancer treatment and new ways to manage the side effects from treatment have improved the outlook and quality of life for many people with cancer. The following is noteworthy research into treatment for bone cancer. Because bone cancer is so rare, many of the studies are small and have only a few participants.

High-dose methotrexate is one of the chemotherapy drugs used to treat osteosarcoma. This drug is often given to children and young adults because it passes through their bodies quickly. The bodies of older adults can’t remove this drug as quickly, so it can cause kidney problems. A study looked at a group of people over the age of 40 with osteosarcoma who were given high-dose methotrexate as part of their chemotherapy treatment. It was given along with leucovorin (folinic acid), which helps prevent side effects from high-dose methotrexate, and fluids to help flush the methotrexate from the body. After chemotherapy, doctors did surgery to remove the tumour. Results show that while it took some time for the methotrexate to leave the body, the drug killed cancer cells and there were no long-term side effects (ASCO, Abstract e22509).

High-dose ifosfamide(Ifex) may be a treatment option for high-grade osteosarcoma that stops responding to standard chemotherapy. A study found that high-dose ifosfamide improved survival when it was the 1st treatment given for osteosarcoma that had spread to other parts of the body, especially if it had spread only to the lungs (ASCO, Abstract 10527).

Gemcitabine (Gemzar) combined with rapamycin (Sirolimus) may be a treatment option for advanced osteosarcoma that no longer responds to chemotherapy. A study found that this chemotherapy combination had a low number of side effects and improved the length of time before the cancer started to grow again (called progression-free survival) (ASCO, Abstract 10530).

Sorafenib (Nexavar) may be a treatment option for advanced chordoma. Results of a clinical trial show that sorafenib may improve progression-free survival, but more study is needed to find out the role it may have in treating this type of bonce cancer (ASCO, Abstract 10520).

Find out more about research in chemotherapy and research in radiation therapy.

Supportive care

Living with cancer can be challenging in many different ways. Supportive care can help people cope with cancer, its treatment and possible side effects. The following is noteworthy research into supportive care for bone cancer.

Long-term complications after treatment for bone cancer are very common in people diagnosed with the disease as adults compared to people diagnosed as children. A study found that adult survivors of osteosarcoma and Ewing sarcoma often have complications such as obesity, problems walking, bone thinning, pain, heart problems and kidney problems. The results of this study also suggest that the older someone is at diagnosis, the greater the risk of complications from treatment (Netherlands Journal of Medicine, PMID 26219756).

Learn more about cancer research

Researchers continue to try to find out more about bone cancer. Clinical trials are research studies that test new ways to prevent, detect, treat or manage bone cancer. Clinical trials provide information about the safety and effectiveness of new approaches to see if they should become widely available. Most of the standard treatments for bone cancer were first shown to be effective through clinical trials.

Find out more about cancer research and clinical trials.


A protein that speeds up certain chemical reactions in the body.

For example, enzymes in the intestines help to digest food.


Carol Leuken You can’t travel with Prairie Women on Snowmobiles and not be changed.

Read more

How can you stop cancer before it starts?

It's My Life! icon

Discover how 16 factors affect your cancer risk and how you can take action with our interactive tool – It’s My Life! Presented in partnership with Desjardins.

Learn more