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IHBI Advances articles

27 April 2020

Osteosarcoma (OS) is a common type of bone cancer, often diagnosed in teenagers or young adults and typically requiring both chemotherapy and surgery. IHBI researchers are developing a model to better target the treatment, reduce side effects and improve a patient's quality of life.

IHBI researcher Dr Jacqui McGovern is developing specialised 3D-printed implants capable of delivering chemotherapy to the surgical site, preventing OS reoccurrence and subsequent metastatic spread, as well as saving the limb.

Dr McGovern is using $197 556 in funding from Cancer Australia and My Room for pre-clinical osteosarcoma studies, involving surgeons and research experts in biomaterials, tissue-engineering and regenerative medicine.

She will lead development of a tissue-engineered microenvironment, a laboratory model that will closely mimic a patient’s surgical site, seeded with bone tissue sourced through a collaboration with the Prince Charles Hospital.

‘The project will pave the way to develop an effective pre-clinical model to study new therapeutics, their target cells, as well as therapeutic delivery systems and complex surgical and tissue regeneration techniques,’ Dr McGovern says.

OS surgery—called a tumour resection—involves removing the bone tumour as well as surrounding bone and muscle to ensure no cancer or tumour traces are left behind. A bone graft—a piece of bone from another part of the body—or a prosthesis replaces the removed bone.

Cancer reoccurrence is typically difficult to detect and may result in metastasis. The five-year survival rate is estimated to be 25 per cent following metastasis.

Chemotherapy initially increased patient survival in the 1970s, but there has been no enhancement of overall OS patient survival since then. Many new therapeutic candidates appear effective in preclinical studies but up to 80 per cent prove ineffective during human trials.

Dr McGovern says targeted chemotherapy will decrease the impact on patient quality of life by circumventing systemic chemotherapy in young OS patients—and with it the potential for long-term side effects such as secondary malignancies.

Specialised 3D-printed implants called scaffolds will be introduced in Dr McGovern’s tissue-engineered microenvironment to deliver chemotherapy, and a specialised bone graft will be used to regenerate the bone defect.

‘The specialised scaffold will help guide the bone regeneration and ensure the correct positioning of the bone graft material,’ Dr McGovern says.

An important collaborator is Adjunct Professor Boris Holzapfel, a renowned orthopaedic surgeon based in Germany who has performed cutting-edge surgery on patients with bone tumours such as OS.

Professor Holzapfel has shown that a defect site can be filled with a bone cement following a tumour resection until a patient is ready for the next surgical procedure.

After six weeks, the bone cement can be removed and patient-specific tissue-engineering methods employed to regenerate a bone defect using a bone graft from the patients’ own healthy femur.

‘That tells us that an OS surgical site is ideal for grafting and capable of regeneration,’ Dr McGovern says. ‘The research has the potential to change the way OS patients are treated and improve their surgical outcomes.’

IHBI researcher Dr Jacqui McGovern

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