Osteosarcoma: Causes, Diagnosis, and Treatment

Osteosarcoma (OSA) has been present in each vertebrate class and has even been recognized in dinosaur fossils, nevertheless it seems to be extra prevalent in canines than in every other species. While there are several types of bone most cancers, greater than 85% of the bone malignancies recognized in canines are OSA.

When in comparison with different varieties of cancers present in canines, the incidence charge of major OSA is low, with an estimated 10,000 canines newly recognized annually. Its survival charge varies significantly relying on which therapies are used, however, sadly, none of the present therapies have excessive charges of success. Many promising new therapies are within the works, nevertheless.

The commonest scientific indicators related to OSA are ache, swelling, and lameness within the affected leg. Lameness happens as a consequence of ache, irritation, microfractures, or pathologic fractures (fractures attributable to regular actions as a consequence of bone deterioration attributable to illness). If swelling is current, it’s possible as a result of unfold of the tumor into the encompassing smooth tissues.

Where OSA Is Found

OSA can develop in any bone, however the commonest type – the appendicular (limb) type – happens within the lengthy bones of the legs and accounts for 75 to 85% of circumstances. Within this subtype, the speed of prevalence within the forelimbs is twice that of the hindlimbs, typically positioned on the high of the humerus (shoulder) or the underside of the radius (wrist). On the hindlimbs, knee and ankle areas are frequent areas. These areas are on the ends of bones, at or close to the expansion plates the place cell turnover is excessive throughout progress.

While the vast majority of the remaining circumstances happen within the axial skeleton (the bones of the pinnacle and trunk), there have been circumstances of OSA documented in extraskeletal websites together with the pores and skin and subcutaneous tissues, in addition to the lungs, liver, mammary glands, and different organs and glands.

Cancer Terminology

Sarcomas are a gaggle of malignant tumors that type within the connective tissues of the physique. They are often additional outlined by the kind of cell, tissue, or construction concerned, corresponding to with osteosarcoma. The prefix osteo derives from the Greek phrase osteon, that means bone – therefore bone most cancers.

Osteosarcoma impacts principally middle-aged and older canines; 80% of circumstances happen in canines over 7 years of age, with 50% of circumstances occurring in canines over 9 years outdated. Younger canines should not immune; roughly 6 to eight% of OSA circumstances develop in canines who’re simply 1 to 2 years of age. OSA of the rib bones additionally tends to happen in additional typically in youthful canines with a median age of 4.5 to five.Four years.


As with most canine cancers, the trigger is unknown. There has been no gender predisposition documented. There does seem like a genetic part as OSA predominates in long-limbed breeds. Large and big breeds have an elevated threat of OSA due to their dimension and weight. Small canines can develop OSA as nicely, however it’s far much less frequent.

Notably, the forelimbs assist about 60% of complete physique weight of the canine and are the commonest limbs to develop OSA. It is theorized that along with physique dimension, the quick progress charge to create the longer bones in massive breeds may contribute on to OSA threat. Rapid bone progress leads to elevated bone transforming and elevated cell turnover; excessive cell division and turnover happens naturally at and close to the expansion plates, that are additionally the commonest websites for tumor growth.

A canine’s threat additionally seems to extend if he has had surgical procedure for a fracture restore or an orthopedic implant. These situations spur the proliferation of bone-forming cells. OSA additionally has been related to fractures through which no inside restore was carried out. Other attainable causes embrace continual bone and bone marrow infections, microscopic harm within the weight-bearing bones of younger rising canines, ionizing radiation, phenotypical variations in interleukin-6 (a protein produced by varied cells), abnormalities within the p53 tumor-suppressor gene, viral infections, and chemical carcinogens.

Hormonal threat components are being actively explored in an effort to find out if there may be an elevated threat for OSA based mostly on the age of spay or neuter (gonadectomy). In May 2019 Makielski et al. authored a comparative evaluate of OSA threat components and included this commentary on trending present hormonal research (Veterinary Sciences Vet Sci 2019, 6, 48):


“Similarly, associations between reproductive status and development of osteosarcoma have been inconsistent. Although several reports suggest that spayed and/or neutered dogs have higher incidence of certain cancers, including osteosarcoma, the relationship between reproductive status and cancer risk may be confounded by other variables, such as the documented tendency toward increased adiposity and body condition in gonadectomized dogs. Increased load combined with delayed physeal (growth plate) closure, a result of gonadectomy prior to skeletal maturity, could theoretically contribute to increased osteosarcoma risk in dogs.”

Diagnosis and Staging

Clinical presentation of canine OSA sometimes seems as lameness of the affected limb, with or with out seen swelling or mass on the affected space.

Diagnostic exams often embrace a bodily examination, an orthopedic and neurological examination (to eradicate different causes of lameness), and radiographs (x-rays). Radiographs could enable for a presumptive prognosis as OSA regularly has a attribute look within the bones: patterns of bone destruction, irregular bone progress, and typically fractures.

If a tentative prognosis of OSA has been made, extra screening assessments are advisable to make sure your canine is in any other case wholesome; these could embrace a blood panel, thoracic radiographs, and CT scan. Ultrasounds are sometimes carried out however early metastasis to the stomach may be very uncommon. A bone aspirate for cytology with alkaline phosphate stain is frequent and advisable. This could happen as a part of the screening course of or obtained throughout surgical procedure.

OSA is extraordinarily aggressive and sometimes metastatic. While solely 10 to 15% of canines could have measurable metastasis, it’s believed that as much as 95% of canines have undetectable metastasis on the time of prognosis. Because of this excessive metastatic threat, extra evaluation is advisable. Most metastatic unfold seems within the lungs so thoracic radiographs are warranted.  Survey radiographs additionally could also be advisable as a consequence of an 8% threat of metastasis to different bones. Metastasis may additionally be seen in lymph nodes (5%) and inside organs.

If obtainable, PET scans or nuclear scintigraphy (typically known as a “bone scan” or “Gamma scan”) are much more delicate diagnostic instruments that may determine ailments not seen with different imaging strategies. It may be helpful for the detection of metastasis in canines as it might distinguish any area of osteoblastic exercise, together with osteoarthritis and an infection.

While there are a number of revealed histologic grading methods for OSA, there isn’t a universally accepted system, making the predictive worth of routine grading of OSA questionable.

Staging of OSA makes use of the TNM (Tumor-Node-Metastasis) System, the usual system used for many tumor staging in veterinary medication. Three phases of OSA may be differentiated:

Stage I signifies a low-grade tumor (G1) with no proof of metastasis (M0)

Stage II signifies a high-grade tumor (G2) with out metastasis.

Stages I and II are additional divided into two subgroups: Group A signifies that the tumor has stayed throughout the bone (T1). Group B signifies that the tumor has unfold past the bone into different close by constructions (T2). Most canines are recognized with Stage IIB OSA.

Stage III is a tumor with metastatic illness (M1).


The major concerns for remedy of OSA ought to embrace an understanding of how far the illness has metastasized, the right way to deal with the bone tumor itself, and the right way to curb, delay, or stop recurrence or unfold of the illness. The illness develops deep within the bone and destroys it from the within; in consequence, it may be extraordinarily painful and treating that ache could be a problem. Above all, any strategy ought to make sure that the canine maintains glorious high quality of life.

Wide-margin surgical procedure, by both limb amputation or limb-sparing surgical procedure, is indicated as the usual preliminary remedy of canine appendicular OSA. While biopsies are sometimes advisable previous to surgical procedure for many varieties of most cancers, it isn’t a necessity with OSA when there are different diagnostic indicators.

Two “tripod dogs” meet on the canine park: What are the chances? Amputation of a limb affected by OSA is the quickest strategy to relieve the canine’s ache and a lot of the damaging processes of the illness.

Removal of the limb extracts the native most cancers instantly and is the quickest and simplest means of assuaging ache and a lot of the damaging processes of OSA. It additionally removes the danger of a painful pathological fracture, which regularly happens because the illness progresses.

Because ache inhibits high quality of life, amputation is taken into account a high quality of life selection. The majority of canines recuperate rapidly and resume a traditional life on three legs. Amputation utterly removes the first tumor, just isn’t a sophisticated surgical procedure and requires much less anesthesia time, gives a decreased threat of postoperative issues, and is a cheaper process than limb-sparing surgical procedure (mentioned subsequent).

Limb sparing may be preferable to amputation for canines who are suffering from current extreme orthopedic or neurological ailments; candidates for limb-sparing surgical procedure ought to be in in any other case good well being with a major tumor confined to the bone. This surgical process replaces the diseased bone with a steel implant or bone graft or mixture of the 2 to reconstruct a useful limb.

On the Horizon: OSA Treatments in Development

Limb sparing surgical procedure quickly improves the general situation of the leg, however finally the most cancers will progress and the bone will deteriorate. Limb perform is preserved in additional than 80% of canines. However, issues are pretty frequent with this process. Infections happen in 30 to 50% of circumstances, implant failure in 20 to 40%, and 15 to 25% of canines will expertise tumor recurrence. Subsequent chemotherapy and radiation therapies additionally could also be advisable.

  • Stereotactic Radiosurgery (aka SRS, Stereotactic Radiotherapy/SRT, Cyberknife)

Stereotactic radiosurgery is a substitute for amputation or limb-sparing surgical procedure; it additionally could also be used as an adjunct remedy following amputation. It is a nonsurgical process (however does require anesthesia) that delivers radiation on to the tumor web site. Radiation acts by making most cancers cells unable to breed.

SRS exactly transmits a number of beams of radiation aimed from varied angles to ship a excessive dose of radiation to a chosen tumor goal. The supply system is efficient and environment friendly and subsequently reduces the prospect of harm to surrounding regular constructions and tissues. Potential downsides to SRS embrace fracture from radiation-induced bone degradation and attainable tumor regrowth. Early reviews recommend that the outcomes of SRS adopted by chemotherapy could also be akin to these achieved with amputation and chemotherapy.

The finest outcomes for canines with OSA so far have been for these present process amputation adopted by chemotherapy. Since tumor elimination doesn’t tackle metastasis, systemic remedy by way of chemotherapy may be important to a remedy plan. Several research have reported extended survival charges utilizing cytostatic drug protocols, with carboplatin, cisplatin, and doxorubicin probably the most generally used.

Side results from chemotherapy are inclined to happen occasionally; after they do, they’re often predictable, minor, and manageable. A canine present process chemotherapy can anticipate to have glorious high quality of life.

For the most recent in immunotherapy remedy for OSA, see WDJ March 2019 “A New Bone Cancer Vaccine for Dogs.”

Other Treatments

The major aim of palliative radiation is to keep up good high quality of life for most cancers sufferers, whether or not human or canine. It is used to manage scientific indicators and ache related to tumors that both can’t be handled by different methods or the place extra aggressive therapies have been declined.

As an additional advantage, palliative radiation could gradual the speed of development and cut back the dimensions of the tumor, thereby additional contributing to the well-being of the affected person. Dogs with OSA initially endure two to 5 remedy classes (requiring anesthetic) and are sometimes administered in decrease dosages than that used for stereotactic radiosurgery.

Most canines will obtain some extent of ache reduction throughout the first one to 2 weeks following remedy, with the potential for it to be efficient for a few months. When ache returns, radiation may be re-administered for if deemed applicable.

Bisphosphonates, corresponding to pamidronate and zoledronate, are simply administered by intravenous (IV) infusions and are geared toward stopping or slowing bone destruction and decreasing ache and threat of fracture, subsequently prolonging the canine’s life. This remedy is comparatively cheap, has a large security margin, and might even be used on canines with renal or liver insufficiency.

These medicine are often utilized in mixture with chemotherapy and/or radiation remedy however could also be used alone. Additionally, bisphononates seem to have potential cancer-suppression results by impeding proliferation and inducing apoptosis (programmed cell loss of life); in consequence, they’ve turn into a focused space for brand new analysis.

Again, as a result of OSA may be extraordinarily painful, recognition and alleviation of ache is important for sustaining high quality of life. Dogs with OSA could expertise ache as a consequence of plenty of causes: the most cancers itself, a remedy modality, or a concurrent illness corresponding to osteoarthritis. To preemptively and adequately management ache, multiple treatment is commonly required.

Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medicine (NSAIDS) are sometimes a mainstay for controlling ache – however aren’t your best option for the kind of ache related to OSA. However, they could be used to handle different types of ache being skilled concurrently. Gabapentin, amitriptyline, duloxetine, and amantadine are higher suited to assuaging OSA-related ache.

Weight management will help by relieving the additional strain on joints; dietary supplements additionally could also be advisable to assist assist the unaffected joints. Physical remedy and therapeutic massage may be helpful, particularly for the compensating joints and muscular tissues. Acupuncture, having been proven to extend endorphins (which inhibit ache notion), can also present an avenue for ache administration.

Palliative Care

Palliative care is an strategy that prioritizes measures to alleviate signs (with out healing intent) and enhance consolation. It is a legitimate and revered selection for care; solely homeowners can resolve what’s finest their canines. Palliative care additionally may be offered to canines who’re on the finish stage of their illness.


The heartbreaking actuality is that the overwhelming majority of canines affected by OSA will succumb to the illness or be launched by euthanasia as a consequence of illness development. Dogs who don’t obtain any type of cancer-specific remedy are often euthanized inside one to 2 months of prognosis as a consequence of uncontrolled ache.

Those handled with surgical procedure alone (amputation) have a median survival interval of about 4 to 5 months; virtually all die inside a yr and solely 2% reside previous two years.

Dogs receiving surgical procedure and chemotherapy have common survival instances of roughly 10 months, with as much as 28% alive after two years.

The median survival time for canines receiving radiation remedy and chemotherapy is about seven months.

In normal, canines between 7 and 10 years outdated are inclined to have longer survival instances than youthful and older canines.

The prognosis may be very poor for canines with Stage III OSA; the common survival time is 2.5 months. Dogs lower than 7 years outdated with a big tumor positioned on the high of the humerus even have a really poor prognosis. Dogs with axial OSA have a median survival time of 4 to 5 months as full surgical procedure is often prohibitive as a consequence of tumor location and sure recurrence. If regional lymph node metastasis has been discovered, survival time is barely about 1.5 months.

This Is A Tough One

With the growing quantity of analysis being performed on OSA, there may be hope for brand new therapies, elevated survival instances, and improved outcomes. But for a lot of, it gained’t be quickly sufficient. Bear, my buddy Keri’s canine, succumbed to OSA whereas I used to be penning this. He lived 16 months after prognosis with palliative care and plenty of love. He may be very a lot missed.

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