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The facts about osteosarcoma

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Osteosarcoma is a malignant tumor that begins in the bone. Although they can arise in any of the more than 200 bones in the body, the most frequent sites are in the long bones of the legs and arms. They are most common in teenagers and young adults, with onset frequently coinciding with a significant “growth spurt” phase. In some cases, treatment requires amputation. Each year, approximately 400 children in the U.S. are diagnosed with osteosarcoma.

The University of Minnesota is already a leader in treating children with sarcomas, but aggressive research into the cause and treatment of this disease continues. Logan Spector, PhD, Associate Professor, Department of Pediatrics, is leading a four-year osteosarcoma study through the Children’s Oncology Group. Pilot work for this study was partially funded by the Children’s Cancer Research Fund, and led to a $1.7 million National Cancer Institute grant. This research is evaluating the potential link between genes that trigger bone growth and osteosarcoma in 500 patients.

This is the largest epidemiological study ever attempted to investigate the causes of osteosarcoma. An identical study is being done—in partnership with the veterinary college—with dogs that naturally develop osteosarcoma. These studies, both linking genes and cancer, may hold the keys to unlocking potential prevention and cure for osteosarcoma.

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