Dr. James Wittig of New York City’s Mt. Sinai Medical Center claims 95 percent of bone sarcoma patients can have their limbs saved. However, there are still some bone cancer sufferers who many still be undergoing amputations due to lack knowledge concerning these newer prosthetics. Wittig believes that many physicians and even much of the general public have limited knowledge of this disease and the options associated with it. Unless a patient stumbles on a physician who has access to an orthopedic oncologist or understands the specialty, everybody is still likely to follow the old pattern of assumption that diseased limbs must be amputated.
Two patients’ stories help underscore how this new approach can impact the field of bone cancer. Ryan Wenke, a fifteen-year-old high school tennis player diagnosed with osteosarcoma claims that sporadic pain had been appearing in his knee, even when he was not engaged in physical activity. He then went to a doctor who recommended seeing an orthopedist and having an MRI done. Then he found out his condition was related to a tumor.
Twenty-five-year-old Chrystina Fischer, received a similar diagnosis after claiming to feel soreness in her shoulder. The physically active mother of twin baby girls claims that she has been training horses since she was 16. The two girls were born only two years ago and her condition only allows her to hug one at a time. She was sure that her whole life would have to change dramatically.
Initially, both patients’ doctors told them that the tumors would require amputations. However surgeons from Mt. Sinai Medical Center saved both limbs through the use of internal prosthetic reconstruction to stand in for malignant bone tissue that needed to be removed.
New research is now emerging that hints at the possibility that ‘friendly bacteria’ can be harnessed to kill bone cancer cells. Researchers at the School of Clinical Sciences are continuing to investigate whether the modification of a harmless type of bacterium, salmonella typhimurium, can produce molecules capable of killing molecules in osteosarcoma. The scientists are using a clinically safe form of the bacterium that has been found to congregate around tumor tissue instead of health tissue.
The biggest hurdle in developing better bone cancer treatments lies in discovering an effective way of targeting anti-cancer drugs at the tumor. Many drugs are administered through intravenous injection and use the body’s network of veins to reach the target. However bone tumors are more of a challenge since they have a very limited blood supply.
The researchers seek to modify the Salmonella bacteria so that it can serve as a vehicle for cancer-killing agents. It is believed that special molecules, such as RNA interference molecules, when produced in the bacteria can be released into malignant cells, eradicating the levels of cancer causing-molecules present. It is hoped that from this research a treatment will be developed that effectively targets tumors and doesn’t affect normal, healthy tissue.