Inform, Empower, Connect

In November 2022 we attended the Connective Tissue Oncology Society (CTOS) meeting. This meeting brought together clinicians, researchers and patient advocates dedicated to improving outcomes in sarcoma.

In this blog we highlight some of the talks with a focus on osteosarcoma (OS).

Connecting the Experts

The first session looked at how modern technology can bring doctors together. Sarcoma experts are based all over the world. Therefore, distance and time have been barriers to them working together. Platforms such as zoom and google groups now make it possible for doctors to connect. Several meetings and dedicated discussion groups have been set up to facilitate this. Feedback from the meetings have been positive. They are a chance for doctors to discuss more complex cases, share ideas and highlight clinical trials. They can learn from one another and ultimately provide the best care for their patients.

Bringing Treatment Home

Hilda presenting her talk 'There is no place like home' and a sign saying 'Welcome to CTOS'.

Adolescents and young adults with cancer have very different needs compared to older people with cancer. They are often at a point in their life where they are becoming more independent and being diagnosed with cancer can disrupt this transition. This can affect their social interaction and emotional well-being. The University of College London and Oslo University Hospital are supporting young patients in having treatment at home (or in a hotel). The aim is to improve their quality of life and give them more independence. So far it has been shown that having treatment outside of the hospital is safe and saves money. Most importantly, it has received positive feedback from patients. Although only being done at a few centres, there was much discussion among the medical community about implementing it further.

Exploring Genetics

There is a move towards personalised cancer treatment that target specific genetic mutations. Genetic mutations drive cancer. Identifying which mutations are driving cancer growth can be difficult. Once you know which mutations are involved, drugs can be developed to help overcome the effects of the mutation. For example, slow cancer growth or spread. One session was dedicated to discussing next generation sequencing (NGS) in sarcoma patients. NGS is a technique that can be used to see the full genetics of something, in this case a tumour. It could be used to direct patient treatment and gain a greater understanding of OS. There were also talks presenting work on identifying new biomarkers that could be targeted to treat cancer. This included alternative lengthening of telomeres (ALT), which helps cancer cells to survive. Read our blog to find out more about ALT.

Finding New Drugs

Researchers are working to find new drugs to treat OS. Work was presented looking at a dendritic cell vaccine to treat OS. Dendritic cells are a type of immune cell. They found that the vaccine could reduce the size of OS tumours in mouse models. It could also reduce the size of any tumours that had formed in the lungs. The next step is to optimise the vaccine for use in humans so that in the future it may be tested in clinical trials.

There were also updates on current clinical trials. One OS trial is looking at using three chemotherapy drugs to treat OS that has returned or does not respond to treatment. Each of the drugs works in a different way. Therefore, the investigators hope that this combination may be effective at treating OS. The first part of the study focused on finding the most suitable dose of hydroxychloroquine (one of the drugs). The trial is now in phase 2 where they are looking at the effectiveness of the drugs. Find out more about this trial and other trials in ONTEX, our clinical trial database.

Take home message

CTOS was a fantastic opportunity for people to come together and share their current work in sarcoma. Research is being done both into new treatments and patient support. We are hopeful that research into OS will continue to progress.

We would like to thank the organisers of CTOS and all the speakers for a fantastic meeting.