Until the 1970s, the only treatment offered to osteosarcoma patients was amputation and, because no systemic treatment was given, survival rates were devastatingly low, at 10-15%. Chemotherapy was not offered, as many believed that osteosarcoma was resistant to this.
This was when Dr Norman Jaffe, a professor of paediatrics, stepped in and revolutionised the treatment of osteosarcoma.
During his work with osteosarcoma patients, Dr Jaffe observed that almost all patients treated with only an amputation developed lung metastasis and died from the disease. It was his observation that led him to defy the widely-held belief that osteosarcoma was chemo-resistant, and he began treating his patients with high dose methotrexate.
Over the following decades, Dr Jaffe introduced other chemotherapies to the standard of care for osteosarcoma, and 5-year survival rates improved and are now as high as 70% for paediatric and adolescent patients.
Professor Bernadette Brennan, Consultant Paediatric Oncologist, MAHSC Honorary Clinical Chair in Paediatric Oncology, Honorary Consultant Paediatric Oncologist at The Christie NHS Trust and Bone Cancer Research Trust Trustee shared:
Professor Jaffe revolutionised the treatment of osteosarcoma. Before his intervention with then single agent methotrexate chemotherapy, all patients with limb osteosarcoma had an amputation and had less than twenty five per cent chance of survival. His empirical use of methotrexate pre-surgery allowed prostheses to be made to preserve limbs in young people, he redefined the drug used, and developed protocols that have led to improvements in survival. He was truly an oncology pioneer.
On behalf of the Bone Cancer Research Trust and all of our osteosarcoma patients, we want to say a heartfelt thank you to Professor Jaffe for his tireless commitment to, and compassion for, bone sarcoma patients and for improving the outcomes for these patients so significantly.
You can read more about Professor Jaffe's career and attitude of love and care in treating patients below: