Public Release: 

U of MN will lead national research study on causes of bone cancer in children

Study funded by $1.7 million grant from National Cancer Institute

University of Minnesota

Logan Spector, Ph.D., a University of Minnesota Cancer Center researcher, has received a $1.7 million grant from the National Cancer Institute (NCI) to lead the largest and most comprehensive study to date on the causes of pediatric osteosarcoma.

Osteosarcoma is a cancer of the bone that usually affects the long bones of the arm or leg. It is the most common cancer of the bone in children under 20 years of age in the United States. Each year about 400 children are diagnosed with the disease.

Spector is an assistant professor of pediatrics at the University of Minnesota Medical School and Cancer Center. The University of Minnesota is a national research and treatment site for children with bone cancer. This four-year research study will include 500 children in the United States and Canada who have been diagnosed with osteosarcoma. Their parents also will be enrolled in the study.

"Previous research has shown a close correlation between the childhood growth curve and osteosarcoma," Spector says. "Children with a more rapid or sustained growth spurt may have a higher risk of osteosarcoma.

"Our research will investigate the effects of genes related to bone growth to determine if they have a role in causing this cancer." Spector says. "We think there could be a link between bone growth genes and osteosarcoma because the timing and extent of adolescent bone growth are mostly genetic. "We also will study how well the cells repair DNA damage naturally, and if the genes are impacted by diet, physical activity, family health history, and other lifestyle-related habits."

A DNA sample will be obtained from each child with osteosarcoma as well as from the parents to learn if the children inherited these bone growth genes more or less often than expected. Growth records of children with the disease will also be compared to national standards, and all participants will complete a questionnaire about their family history and lifestyle.

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Spector will work with other pediatric cancer researchers at the University of Minnesota; The Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto, Canada; Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center in Cincinnati, Ohio; Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York; and the NCI. The Twin Cities-based Children's Cancer Research Fund and the Karen Wyckoff Rein in Sarcoma Fund provided funding for the preliminary study.

For more information about pediatric osteosarcoma and this research study, contact the University of Minnesota Cancer Center's Information Line at 612-624-2620 or visit www.cancer.umn.edu.

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