Making it better for young people with Osteosarcoma is the mission of MIB Agents. Every year they bring together patients, families, doctors and researchers to drive forward research into bone cancer. This June the conference, called FACTOR, took place in Atlanta and we were delighted to attend. In this blog we highlight some of the key topics discussed at FACTOR.
We would like to thank our partners at the Bardo Foundation for funding our trip to FACTOR.
Dogs with bone cancer
Dogs can get osteosarcoma just like people. Although it more commonly occurs in older dogs, it looks very similar to human osteosarcoma. Just like people, dogs with osteosarcoma may be offered a new drug as part of a clinical trial if their treatment is not working. Not only can these trials help dogs but researchers can apply the results of these trials to help develop drugs for humans. This type of research is called comparative oncology and was a popular topic at FACTOR.
The power of comparative oncology was demonstrated by researchers in Colorado, USA. They ran a clinical trial for dogs with osteosarcoma that had spread to the lungs. The dogs were given an anti-cancer drug called Toceranib and another drug, which you may know as blood pressure medication called, Losartan. The researchers found that Losartan (at higher doses than given to treat blood pressure) had anti-cancer properties. Half of the dogs in the trial benefited from being given the two drugs. These results have supported the initiation of a human clinical trial which is currently recruiting people with osteosarcoma.
Drugs that target the immune system
Using drugs to activate the immune system has been an effective way to treat many types of cancer. However, these drugs, known as immunotherapies, have not worked well in osteosarcoma.
At FACTOR researchers shared new approaches to activating the immune system in osteosarcoma. This included attaching a radioactive substance to an antibody (a type of immune cell) to help kill cancer cells. Another researcher described an antibody that can change its shape while in the body. They hope that this will make it better at targeting the cancer and not causing side effects. We interviewed a doctor about this drug which is now being tested in a clinical trial.
Treating the Primary A disease where cells divide and grow uncontrollably and can spread to other areas of the body.
The primary cancer is the first tumour (growth) that occurred in the body. In osteosarcoma this commonly occurs in a leg bone, but it can start in any bone in the body. Several surgeons shared their techniques for treating primary bone cancer. Printing 3D models of the cancer and surrounding bones is helping surgeons to plan the surgery. They are also being used to effectively help patients to understand the surgery.
One challenge faced in osteosarcoma surgery is ensuring that all the tumour is removed. A trial, called SarcoSite, that will be opening soon will test if a green dye will help surgeons to effectively remove the primary cancer. The dye is taken up by cancer cells and can be seen through a special camera during surgery. The researchers hope that this will increase the chance of removing all the cancer and reducing the risk of recurrence at this site.
FACTOR provides a safe place where not only can researchers learn from each other, but they can learn from people with lived experience. Five young people who had osteosarcoma took to the stage and shared their experiences. Their honest accounts highlighted the importance of research into osteosarcoma and the difference it can make to people’s lives.
MIB Agents have many wonderful resources for young people with osteosarcoma. This includes opportunities to connect with others and a safe place to game with people who understand. Find out more on their website.
Take home message
This year’s FACTOR highlighted the current research into osteosarcoma with a focus on what we learn from pet dogs. The hope is that if we find drugs that treat dogs with osteosarcoma, we can then move these drugs into humans. We will Make it Better together.