Blocking a single protein could stop the progression of bone cancer

Osteosarcoma is a type of bone cancer that primarily affects men aged between 10 and 30 years. In fact, osteosarcoma corresponds to the most common primary bone cancer in children and adolescents. And while the five-year survival is only 15-30% in advanced stages, that is, when the tumor has already spread to other organs – it can be stopped, concludes a study conducted by researchers from Princess Margaret Cancer Center in Toronto (Canada).

Specifically, the study shows that blocking RANKL protein responsible for the activation of osteoclasts – that is, the cells responsible for the destruction of damaged bone tissue – is enough to stop the progression of osteosarcoma.

Rama Khokha, head of the research, said “thanks to our study we were able to determine the molecular basis that explains the role of RANKL protein in the development of osteosarcoma. New information could be moved quickly to clinics for treating patients”.

No progress in 20 years

Researchers have studied in depth the role and mechanism of RANKL protein in the development of osteosarcoma in different genetic models. A study has revealed that, on the one hand, that blocking RANKL stop tumor progression in their aggressive phases and, secondly, that the removal of the protein prevents spread to the lung tumor. The latter being a very important extension because lung cancer is the leading cause of death in patients. The findings provide consistent evidence to consider blocking RANKL for the prevention and treatment of osteosarcoma in humans.

And in this context, Dr. Khokha reminds, “today we already have a RANKL blocking drug approved for the treatment of various bone diseases. The next step is to assess whether the drug can be adapted for the treatment of osteosarcoma and improve patient outcomes. “

Therefore, the National Cancer Institute has already approved a Phase II clinical trial to test the drug in patients with relapsed or resistant osteosarcoma. As Khokha concludes, “In the last 20 years they have made little significant progress in the treatment of this type of bone cancer. We are eager to improve the situation”.