Survival from rare bone cancer remains low

HILTON HEAD, SC—Among 205 cases of mesenchymal chondrosarcoma examined, more than half (51%) of patients survived at least 5 years, and 43% survived at least 10 years. These study findings were presented at the Mid-America Orthopaedic Association 33rd Annual Meeting.

Mesenchymal chondrosarcoma is a rare malignancy that is among the deadliest cancers. It begins in cartilage around bones and typically strikes young adults. Though 10-year survival has been reported to be as low as 20%, this study from Loyola University Medical Center in Maywood, Illinois, has found survival is not as dismal as prior reports.

Chondrosarcoma is uncontrolled growth of cancerous cells that produce cartilage. It begins in or around bones, or occasionally in soft tissues. A subtype, mesenchymal chondrosarcoma, is a higher grade, and often aggressive. Treatment typically includes surgery to remove the tumor, and sometimes chemotherapy.

Lukas Nystrom, MD, an orthopaedic surgeon at Loyola and senior author, specializes in orthopaedic oncology. This specialty involves the treatment of benign and malignant tumors of the bone and soft tissues.

Nystrom and colleagues examined data from the Surveillance, Epidemiology and End Results (SEER) program database administered through the National Cancer Institute. They analyzed 205 cases of mesenchymal chondrosarcoma occurring between 1973 and 2011.

Survival rates varied, depending on where tumors were located. Patients with axial tumors (ie, in the spine, pelvis, and trunk) were found to have worse survival outcomes compared with patients with tumors in arms or legs.

Nystrom said the likely reason is because in some patients, the tumors are located in areas that are essentially inoperable and thus cannot be safely removed. Nystrom further speculated that the reason overall survival was found to be higher than in previous reports may be due to improved computed tomography (CT) and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans and the introduction of chemotherapy as part of the treatment regimen.

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