Osteosarcoma: Causes, Diagnosis, and Treatment


Don’t wait to analyze in case your dog develops a continual or intermittent limp, particularly in large-breed dog, and particularly if it’s in a entrance leg. Too usually, this can be a signal of osteosarcoma.

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

When in comparison with different sorts of cancers present in dogs, the incidence price of major OSA is low, with an estimated 10,000 dogs newly identified every year. Its survival price varies significantly relying on which remedies are used, however, sadly, none of the present remedies have excessive charges of success. Many promising new remedies are within the works, nevertheless.

The commonest medical indicators related to OSA are ache, swelling, and lameness within the affected leg. Lameness happens attributable to ache, irritation, microfractures, or pathologic fractures (fractures attributable to regular actions attributable to bone deterioration attributable to illness). If swelling is current, it’s probably because of the unfold of the tumor into the encircling tender tissues.

Where OSA Is Found

OSA can develop in any bone, however the commonest kind – the appendicular (limb) kind – happens within the lengthy bones of the legs and accounts for 75 to 85% of instances. Within this subtype, the speed of incidence within the forelimbs is twice that of the hindlimbs, usually positioned on the high of the humerus (shoulder) or the underside of the radius (wrist). On the hindlimbs, knee and ankle areas are widespread 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 instances happen within the axial skeleton (the bones of the top and trunk), there have been instances 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 kind within the connective tissues of the physique. They are normally additional outlined by the kind of cell, tissue, or construction concerned, akin to with osteosarcoma. The prefix osteo derives from the Greek phrase osteon, which means bone – therefore bone most cancers.

Osteosarcoma impacts largely middle-aged and older dogs; 80% of instances happen in dogs over 7 years of age, with 50% of instances occurring in dogs over 9 years outdated. Younger dogs should not immune; roughly 6 to eight% of OSA instances develop in dogs who’re simply 1 to 2 years of age. OSA of the rib bones additionally tends to happen in additional usually in youthful dogs with a median age of four.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 element as OSA predominates in long-limbed breeds. Large and big breeds have an elevated threat of OSA due to their dimension and weight. Small dogs can develop OSA as effectively, however it’s far much less widespread.

Notably, the forelimbs assist about 60% of complete physique weight of the dog and are the commonest limbs to develop OSA. It is theorized that along with physique dimension, the quick progress price to create the longer bones in massive breeds may contribute on to OSA threat. Rapid bone progress leads to elevated bone reworking 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 dog’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 during which no inner restore was carried out. Other potential causes embody continual bone and bone marrow infections, microscopic harm within the weight-bearing bones of younger rising dogs, 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’s an elevated threat for OSA based mostly on the age of spay or neuter (gonadectomy). In May 2019 Makielski et al. authored a comparative overview 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 usually seems as lameness of the affected limb, with or with out seen swelling or mass on the affected space.

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

If a tentative analysis of OSA has been made, further screening assessments are really useful to make sure your dog is in any other case wholesome; these could embody 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 widespread and really useful. This could happen as a part of the screening course of or obtained throughout surgical procedure.

OSA is extraordinarily aggressive and usually metastatic. While solely 10 to 15% of dogs can have measurable metastasis, it’s believed that as much as 95% of dogs have undetectable metastasis on the time of analysis. Because of this excessive metastatic threat, further evaluation is really useful. Most metastatic unfold seems within the lungs so thoracic radiographs are warranted.  Survey radiographs additionally could also be really useful attributable to an eight% threat of metastasis to different bones. Metastasis can also be seen in lymph nodes (5%) and inner organs.

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

While there are a number of revealed histologic grading techniques for OSA, there isn’t any 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 could 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 inside the bone (T1). Group B signifies that the tumor has unfold past the bone into different close by buildings (T2). Most dogs are identified with Stage IIB OSA.

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


The major concerns for remedy of OSA ought to embody an understanding of how far the illness has metastasized, how you can deal with the bone tumor itself, and how you can curb, delay, or forestall recurrence or unfold of the illness. The illness develops deep within the bone and destroys it from the within; consequently, it may be extraordinarily painful and treating that ache could be a problem. Above all, any method ought to be certain that the dog maintains wonderful 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 usually really useful previous to surgical procedure for many sorts of most cancers, it isn’t a necessity with OSA when there are different diagnostic indicators.

tripods 300x212 - Osteosarcoma: Causes, Diagnosis, and TreatmentTwo “tripod dogs” meet on the dog park: What are the chances? Amputation of a limb affected by OSA is the quickest solution to relieve the dog’s ache and many of the harmful processes of the illness.

Removal of the limb extracts the native most cancers instantly and is the quickest and simplest method of assuaging ache and many of the harmful 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 top quality of life alternative. The majority of dogs get better shortly and resume a traditional life on three legs. Amputation fully removes the first tumor, shouldn’t be a sophisticated surgical procedure and requires much less anesthesia time, gives a decreased threat of postoperative problems, and is a cheaper process than limb-sparing surgical procedure (mentioned subsequent).

Limb sparing could be preferable to amputation for dogs that suffer 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 metallic implant or bone graft or mixture of the 2 to reconstruct a practical 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 dogs. However, problems are pretty widespread with this process. Infections happen in 30 to 50% of instances, implant failure in 20 to 40%, and 15 to 25% of dogs will expertise tumor recurrence. Subsequent chemotherapy and radiation remedies additionally could also be really useful.

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

Stereotactic radiosurgery is an alternative choice to 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 due to this fact reduces the prospect of injury to surrounding regular buildings and tissues. Potential downsides to SRS embody fracture from radiation-induced bone degradation and potential tumor regrowth. Early experiences recommend that the outcomes of SRS adopted by chemotherapy could also be akin to these achieved with amputation and chemotherapy.

The finest outcomes for dogs with OSA so far have been for these present process amputation adopted by chemotherapy. Since tumor removing doesn’t handle metastasis, systemic remedy through chemotherapy could 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 sometimes; once they do, they’re normally predictable, minor, and manageable. A dog present process chemotherapy can anticipate to have wonderful high quality of life.

For the newest 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 take care of good high quality of life for most cancers sufferers, whether or not human or canine. It is used to manage medical indicators and ache related to tumors that both can’t be handled by different methods or the place extra aggressive remedies have been declined.

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

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

Bisphosphonates, akin to pamidronate and zoledronate, are simply administered by means of intravenous (IV) infusions and are aimed toward stopping or slowing bone destruction and decreasing ache and threat of fracture, due to this fact prolonging the dog’s life. This remedy is comparatively cheap, has a large security margin, and may even be used on dogs with renal or liver insufficiency.

These medication are normally 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 dying); consequently, they’ve grow to be a focused space for brand new analysis.

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

Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medication (NSAIDS) are usually a mainstay for controlling ache – however aren’t the only option for the kind of ache related to OSA. However, they might be used to deal with different types of ache being skilled concurrently. Gabapentin, amitriptyline, duloxetine, and amantadine are higher suited to assuaging OSA-related ache.

Weight management may help by relieving the additional strain on joints; dietary supplements additionally could also be really useful to assist assist the unaffected joints. Physical remedy and therapeutic massage could be useful, particularly for the compensating joints and muscle 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 method that prioritizes measures to alleviate signs (with out healing intent) and enhance consolation. It is a sound and revered alternative for care; solely house owners can resolve what’s finest their dogs. Palliative care additionally could be supplied to dogs who’re on the finish stage of their illness.


The heartbreaking actuality is that the overwhelming majority of dogs affected by OSA will succumb to the illness or be launched by means of euthanasia attributable to illness development. Dogs who don’t obtain any type of cancer-specific remedy are normally euthanized inside one to 2 months of analysis attributable to uncontrolled ache.

Those handled with surgical procedure alone (amputation) have a mean survival interval of about 4 to 5 months; virtually all die inside a 12 months 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 dogs receiving radiation remedy and chemotherapy is about seven months.

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

The prognosis may be very poor for dogs with Stage III OSA; the typical 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 mean survival time of 4 to 5 months as full surgical procedure is normally prohibitive attributable to tumor location and probably recurrence. If regional lymph node metastasis has been discovered, survival time is simply about 1.5 months.

This Is A Tough One

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



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