Virtual Walk will help in the battle against osteosarcoma
Osteosarcoma is the most common malignant bone tumor in dogs. Although amputation remains a standard treatment for osteosarcoma, in some circumstances amputation is not a viable option, including when patients have severe arthritis and would be unable to support themselves on three legs. However, there are osteosarcoma treatments designed to avoid amputation; strategies collectively referred to as limb sparing.
Conventional limb-sparing surgery was first pioneered nearly 30 years ago, and is the result of a collaborative effort between human pediatric oncologists and veterinary oncologists. The procedure consists of removal of tumor-affected bone, followed by the placement of a sterile, similarly sized bone from a bone bank into the recipient. A bone plate (the same used to fix a broken bone) connects the donor bone to the remaining host bone. The bones then heal together in the same way a fracture repairs itself.
The development of this limb-sparing technique gave veterinarians another strategy to address bone tumors in dogs. However, the technique requires significant surgical expertise, and is limited to tumors of the distal front leg (the area near the wrist). Another technique has been developed which is rapidly taking the place of conventional limb sparing. This new strategy uses radiation, and takes advantage of recent advances in imaging and radiotherapy.
“We’ve made a remarkable leap in treatment options,” said Dr. Rod Page, director of the Flint Animal Cancer Center and professor of medical oncology at the College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences at Colorado State University, and principal investigator of Morris Animal Foundation’s Golden Retriever Lifetime Study. “We are doing fewer conventional limb-sparing surgeries and more stereotactic radiation therapy.”
Stereotactic radiation therapy uses high-dose, targeted radiation precisely focused on the tumor. The technique requires sophisticated imaging and newer radiation delivery vehicles, but the results are excellent, with very little damage to surrounding normal tissues.
Dr. Page said that because the radiation therapy can be finished in only a few days, there is no prolonged recovery from surgery, and the radiation can be applied to osteosarcomas that would not be treatable with conventional limb sparing, such as those in the shoulder.
More and more treatment centers are acquiring the ability to perform this type of therapy. Although the therapy has reduced radiation treatment side effects and avoided amputation, the average survival time for dogs with osteosarcoma remains the same as with amputation. Patients still require additional chemotherapy to treat the metastatic disease common in dogs with osteosarcoma.
As we approach the final countdown to the 2016 Morris Animal Foundation Unite to Fight Pet Cancer Virtual Walk, join us as we continue to fund innovative research through our Osteosarcoma Initiative, a five year, $5 million effort to find new strategies to address the metastatic disease that is the cause of death in dogs with osteosarcoma. Together, we can make a difference in the lives of dogs with osteosarcoma and their families.