Research into primary bone cancer

Researchers around the world are looking at the causes, diagnosis and treatment of primary bone cancer.

Go to Cancer Research UK’s clinical trials database if you are looking for a trial for primary bone cancer in the UK. You need to talk to your specialist if there are any trials that you think you might be able to take part in.

Research and clinical trials

All cancer treatments must be fully researched before they can be used for everyone. This is so we can be sure that:

  • they work
  • they work better than the treatments already available
  • they are safe

It can be more difficult to do research into rare cancers such as bone cancer. This is because there are fewer people to take part in them. So, compared to more common cancers there are relatively few trials.

Research into the outcomes of osteosarcoma

The outcomes for people with a type of primary bone cancer called osteosarcoma have shown very little improvement in the last 20 years. Researchers are looking into how and why osteosarcoma starts and grows. By knowing more, they will be able to decide what treatments are most likely to work best.

Researchers are collecting information about people of all ages with osteosarcoma. This includes information about the:

  • size of the tumour
  • how it was diagnosed
  • where it was at diagnosis
  • what treatments were given
  • how it responded to the treatments

They will also be looking at blood and tissue samples in research laboratories. By looking at the laboratory findings and the clinical data together, they hope to answer:

  • why sarcoma start and grow
  • what makes them spread
  • why some people respond to treatment better than others

The researchers also hope to find out how osteosarcoma and its treatments affect people. This information will help them decide on the best care and support for people with osteosarcoma. And help them to live longer and better lives.

Research into treatment


Researchers are doing a randomised controlled trial Open a glossary item to look at:

  • the targeted drug lenvatinib
  • the chemotherapy drugs ifosfamide and etoposide

They are comparing having:

  • lenvatinib with ifosfamide
  • etoposide with having ifosfamide and etoposide on their own

The researchers want to know how well the drugs work and how safe they are. The trial is in children, adolescents, and young adults with a type of bone cancer called osteosarcoma. It is for people whose cancer has come back or is resistant to treatment.

Targeted cancer drugs

Researchers are doing a trial using the targeted drugs sunitinib and nivolumab together. It is in people who have advanced bone cancer or soft tissue sarcoma and who had standard treatment.

The researchers want to look at how long people live with the disease without getting worse (progression free survival rate).

Another trial is looking at afatinib for people with a type of bone cancer called chordoma. Surgery is the usual treatment for chordoma. But sometimes, the cancer comes back after surgery or spreads to other parts of the body. This is called advanced chordoma.

Afatinib is a type of targeted cancer drug called a tyrosine kinase inhibitor (TKI). It blocks proteins that stimulate cancer cells to grow. Afatinib is already a possible treatment for some people with lung cancer.

The main aim of this trial is to find out whether afatinib helps people with advanced chordoma.

Research into finding new ways to monitor bone cancer

All cells need oxygen and food (nutrients) to grow. Blood vessels deliver oxygen and nutrients to the cells. When cancer cells begin to grow and multiply, they need to create their own blood supply to get the oxygen and nutrients. This is called angiogenesis.

A study is looking at measuring blood vessels' growth in several cancers, including bone cancer. To measure the growth, the researchers use:

  • a PET scan and a CT scan (PET-CT scan)
  • a PET scan combined with an MRI scan (PET- MR scan)

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