Bone Cancer: Latest Research

Approved by the Cancer.Net Editorial Board, 05/2017

ON THIS PAGE: You will read about the scientific research being done now to learn more about this type of cancer and how to treat it. Use the menu to see other pages.

Doctors are working to learn more about bone cancer, ways to prevent it, how to best treat it, and how to provide the best care to people diagnosed with this disease. The following areas of research may include new options for patients through clinical trials. Always talk with your doctor about the best diagnostic and treatment options for you.

  • Immunotherapy. Immunotherapy, also called biologic therapy, is designed to boost the body's natural defenses to fight the cancer. Mifamurtide (Mepact) is a nonspecific immune system stimulator approved as a bone cancer treatment in some countries but not in the United States.

Mifamurtide is not the only type of immunotherapy. Immunotherapy comes in many forms. Immune checkpoint inhibitors have created a lot of excitement in the field of cancer research. These drugs are monoclonal antibodies that block a specific molecule, which then takes the brakes off the immune system and allows the immune system to fight the cancer cells. The molecules that are blocked have names such as CTLA4, PD-1, OX40, LAG3, and TIM3. They have proved helpful in many cancers. Such treatments are being tested in clinical trials in sarcomas.

Vaccines against specific sarcoma proteins or other molecules are also being studied, often in addition to immune checkpoint inhibitors. 

Learn more about the basics of immunotherapy.

  • Targeted therapy. Targeted therapy is a treatment that targets the cancer’s specific genes, proteins, or the tissue environment that contributes to cancer growth and survival. This type of treatment blocks the growth and spread of cancer cells with greater specificity than regular chemotherapy, which damages the DNA of both cancer cells and normal cells. Targeted therapy helps limit damage to healthy cells. For example, PARP (poly ADP-ribose polymerase) inhibitors are 1 type of targeted therapy being studied in the treatment of Ewing sarcoma. Learn more about targeted treatments.

  • Myeloablative therapy. Myeloablative therapy is an intense regimen of very high doses of chemotherapy. It aims to destroy all cells that are dividing rapidly. This includes cancer cells but also some healthy cells.

    Stem cells may be given to the patient after myeloablative therapy to renew the blood cells more rapidly. Stem cells are cells that create all other types of cells in the body, in this case cells that will help new blood cells be made faster. Stem cells are typically taken from the bone marrow or blood of the patient or a blood relative before myeloablative therapy. This process is also called a bone marrow transplant.

  • Intraoperative radiation therapy. Clinical trials are evaluating the usefulness of radiation therapy given inside the body during surgery for some Ewing sarcoma tumors. This is called intraoperative radiation therapy or internal radiation therapy. Other techniques are being used when bone cancer recurs at a distant, or metastatic, location in the body. These include radiofrequency ablation (RFA) and stereotactic body radiotherapy (SBRT), which uses a small number of very focused, very intense radiation treatments to control or destroy a small area of tumor.

  • Palliative care. Clinical trials are underway to find better ways of reducing symptoms and side effects of current bone cancer treatments to improve patients’ comfort and quality of life.

Looking for More About the Latest Research?

If you would like additional information about the latest areas of research regarding bone cancer, explore these related items that take you outside of this guide:

The next section in this guide is Coping with Treatment. It offers some guidance in how to cope with the physical, emotional, and social changes that cancer and its treatment can bring. You may use the menu to choose a different section to read in this guide.