Chondrosarcoma is the most common form of bone cancer in adults. Little is known of how low-grade chondrosarcoma, which is commonly curable by surgery, transforms to an aggressive high-grade disease which spreads to other parts of the body. As with other cancers, the cause and behaviour of chondrosarcoma is driven by changes in DNA (mutations and epigenetic changes).

Researchers have found DNA changes that are common to specific cancer types e.g. colorectal, breast, prostate and skin cancer, revealing how normal cells transform into cancerous ones. This has led to the introduction of biomarkers in day-to-day clinical practice that can predict which patients are suitable for new treatments, therefore improving survival. These advances have been hampered in chondrosarcoma because of its rarity.

This research project, related to the PEACE (Posthumous Evaluation of Advanced Cancer Environment) Study, was made possible through the very generous act of a chondrosarcoma patient who gifted their body for research. It has provided a unique opportunity to study the DNA changes that take place in chondrosarcoma, from the time of the first surgery and diagnosis, to the formation of multiple metastatic tumours that spread throughout the body.

What were the aims of this research project?

This study aimed to explore for the first time, how mutations in chondrosarcoma may change over time and how this relates to disease progression and dissemination throughout the body.

The team have made very exciting observations that will be published in due course and have identified potential biomarkers that can be used to make earlier diagnosis of aggressive disease, therefore facilitating early intervention, and potential recruitment to clinical trials.

How could this project improve treatment options for chondrosarcoma patients?

Currently clinicians cannot provide reliable information about prognosis to chondrosarcoma patients. Knowledge of the genetic changes in chondrosarcoma and how they relate to disease progression should allow patients to receive more accurate information about how their disease is likely to behave. This knowledge could eventually allow more tailor-made treatment plans for patients, and those individuals whose tumours which carry genetic changes associated with aggressive behaviour, could benefit from earlier diagnosis and earlier surgical intervention. A greater knowledge of the genetic changes in chondrosarcoma could potentially also help to identify patients suitable for clinical trials.

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