Earlier this month, I had the distinct honor of participating in an international osteosarcoma symposium organized by one of the pioneers of our field, Dr. Norman Jaffe. Entitled “Progress from the Past, Prospects for the Future,” the meeting took place at MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, TX. Participants included surgeons, oncologists, radiologists, radiation oncologists, pathologists and laboratory scientists from around the world, as well as patients, parents, and patient advocates.
Dr. Jaffe asked me to speak about the possible role of immunotherapy in osteosarcoma treatment. It was an honor to have been invited, and it was a pleasure to be given the opportunity to discuss my thoughts on what the future of osteosarcoma therapy might include.
So what happened? Dr. Bruland, from Norway, gave an excellent presentation on his work demonstrating that small deposits of osteosarcoma cells might lie dormant in patients’ bone marrow, and that these cells might play a key role in disease relapse. Osteosarcoma is not thought of as a disease that typically involves bone marrow, so if true, this could change the way we go about hunting for sites of disease in our patients as well as changing our understanding of how cancer cells survive therapy to cause relapse.
Dr. Gorlick, from Montefiore Hospital in the Bronx, provided a comprehensive overview of the basic biology of osteosarcoma, providing a framework for future laboratory research that might one day yield new targeted therapies. Dr. Hughes, from our host institution, MD Anderson, discussed his work on one particular biological pathway (called the Notch signaling pathway) that might be important for the development of metastatic disease. There are already drugs available that target this pathway, so the prospect of intervening in this process is tantalizingly close.
Another highlight of the trip for me was the opportunity to see relatives of some of my patients and their families in a context outside of the Pediatric Oncology Clinic.
Of course, no trip is all work and no play. I’ve never been to Houston, so I tried to squeeze in time to explore the city. I got to visit the (very avant-garde) Contemporary Arts Museum, as well as the sculpture garden across from the Fine Arts Museum (thankfully on a bright sunny day).
And the sushi at Azuma was incredible. If you’re ever in Houston, I highly recommend it!
The proceedings of this symposium will be published by Springer in the very near future for those of you who are interested in learning more.