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Bone cancer treatment through the generations

Monday 25 November, 2019


Radiation was the only way to treat bone cancer. Back then the survival rate was less than 10%.

It was often diagnosed late, and there was no way to detect if the cancer had spread.


Surgery and amputation had become the preferred treatment, with less than 20% of patients surviving for five years or more.


Chemotherapeutic agents were introduced, resulting in improved patient prognoses – an incredible breakthrough.

However, there was a cost associated with chemotherapy which still exists today – many healthy cells within the body are also wiped out.


Significant improvements were made as chemotherapy became an additional treatment, accompanying surgery.

But prognoses for recurrent osteosarcoma were still poor and there was no accepted
standard regimen.


Treatment can now include surgery, chemotherapy and radiotherapy.

Survival rates of 60% are the highest they’ve ever been, but intensive chemotherapy treatment can leave survivors with lifelong side-effects.

However, we are getting closer to finding safer and kinder treatments for bone cancer.

From research to trials

While dramatic improvements have been made in patient outcomes for many types of cancer, survival rates for osteosarcoma patients have not improved significantly since the 1980s.

Osteosarcoma is the most common type of primary bone cancer. It mainly affects children and teens, and the current treatments can leave survivors with lifelong side effects.

Associate Professor Christine Hawkins

“We need bone cancer treatments to be more effective and to have fewer of these really severe and life-threatening side effects associated with them”

– Associate Professor Christine Hawkins


Thanks to promising new research led by Associate Professor Christine Hawkins, a new class of anti-cancer agents known as “SMAC mimetics” are being tested on bone cancer cells. Early tests have shown that it can be effective in causing the cancer cells to die, while being gentler on the patient than current treatments.

Targeted treatments are now closer than ever, thanks to people like you. Your support will help cancer research like this reach clinical trials sooner, where real breakthroughs can be made.

You can help make safer and more effective treatments for bone cancer a reality.

Donate now


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