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How Advances in Imaging and Technology are Helping to Advance Sarcoma and Bone Cancer Research

July 17, 2023

Sarcoma, or bone cancer, is a rare form of cancer that develops in the bones. If doctors can detect cancer in its early stages, they can use surgical treatment, radiation therapy, or chemotherapy to cure it. The symptoms are not evident in the beginning stages, making detection challenging. In recent years, though, crucial advances in both imaging and technology can improve the survival rate of those diagnosed with sarcoma or bone cancer.


The Current Challenges in Bone Cancer and Sarcoma Research


The rarity of sarcoma cancer means recruiting patients for clinical trials can be difficult. What’s more, fewer patients means less data to draw from. This can slow the development of innovative cancer treatments.


In addition, because sarcoma cancer is a rather rare form of cancer, there is less funding and support from research institutions compared to other types of cancer, such as lung cancer. This limited funding can significantly hamper bone cancer technology, sarcoma research, and clinical trials.


How Imaging and Technology Can Help to Improve Diagnosis and Efficacy of Treatments


Patients typically experience little to no pain with sarcoma cancer, at least in the beginning stages. Patients may notice a lump that doesn’t go away or slight discomfort when they move an arm or leg. However, since there are rarely symptoms like fever or acute pain, patients may simply ignore their symptoms.


However, with the emergence of imaging and technology, bone cancer can be detected early and diagnosed properly. With imaging technologies such as CT scans and MRIs, doctors can get cross-sectional and detailed images of the problem area. And by being able to visualize the tumor location, doctors can then devise an effective treatment plan.


With image-guided biopsies, doctors can also target the tumor tissue. This reduces the risk of errors and allows doctors to obtain tissue from sometimes difficult-to-reach areas in the body. With the help of image-guided biopsies, doctors can also decide the extent of the surgery the patient needs.


Image-guided surgeries (IGS) use real-time images of the tumor during an operation. This provides surgeons with a 3D image of the tumor, ensuring accuracy during the operation.


If patients need radiation therapy, image-guided radiation therapy (IGRT) can locate and accurately target tumors during radiation treatment. This precise targeting significantly reduces errors and prevents damage to the surrounding tissues. The therapy can then be altered depending on the real-time images, which may show a decreasing tumor or a tumor changing its shape.


The Latest Breakthroughs in Imaging and Technology Related to Sarcoma and Bone Cancer


Over the years, there have been impressive breakthroughs in cancer technology. Fortunately, some of these breakthroughs can also be applied to bone cancer research.


CRISPR – Gene Editing


Since changes in DNA cause cancer, scientists have been trying to find a way to manipulate DNA to cure cancer. With CRISPR, scientists can effectively alter DNA inside cells by cutting, deleting, and editing them. As this breakthrough is new, researchers are still fine-tuning how DNA can be altered without creating unseen damaging side effects on the body.


Artificial Intelligence (AI)


Researchers can use artificial intelligence (AI) to speed up innovative cancer treatments. One example is by creating a digital twin of your body. Researchers can then experiment with different treatment plans to see how your digital twin will react. Similarly, they can fine-tune a treatment plan before offering you the final option. AI can also be used to see subtle patterns of tumor growth that the human eye may miss. Early cancer diagnosis can be more accurate by detecting hard-to-see patterns and clues.


Cryo-Electron Microscopy (Cryo-EM)


Cryo-EM can capture images of molecules at extremely high resolutions. This allows researchers to watch how cancer cells grow and spread. By understanding how cancer cells survive and grow at a microscopic level, researchers can find better ways of targeting them.


Infinium Assay


By using Infinium Assay alongside their cancer research, researchers can detect gene mutations and hone in on the genes that cause cancer. Illumina, the company that created Infinium Assay, has created DASLĀ® assay to specifically help with cancer research.


Although these breakthroughs can certainly help with future cancer treatments, many are still in their early research stages. However, with more funding and larger clinical trials, there could be a significant improvement in the treatment and diagnosis of bone cancer.


How Have These Innovations Impacted Early Detection and Treatment?


With image-guided biopsies and surgeries, doctors can be more precise when targeting tumors. This also reduces the risk of damaging the healthy tissue around the tumor.


Doctors can also identify high-risk cases much earlier, which helps improves the patient’s odds of surviving cancer and allows early intervention.


Advanced imaging techniques and Cryo-EM technology give researchers and doctors a better understanding of cancer cells: how they survive and how they mutate. Sarcoma treatment centers can use this accumulated data to provide better treatment plans for their cancer patients.


Finally, image-guided biopsies can help doctors monitor how well the patient responded to radiation or surgical treatment. In addition, regular image scans, such as CT scans, can help doctors follow up to see if there is a recurrence or a progression of the disease.


How Do These Technologies Benefit Future Cancer Treatments?


With new cancer technology comes potential benefits, such as:


  • Customized treatment plans
  • Early detection
  • Improved monitoring of the disease
  • Targeted treatments
  • Higher survival rates


How Can This New Technology Help Sarcoma Specialists Collaborate More Effectively?


New cancer technology can help sarcoma specialists collaborate more effectively in a variety of ways:


Researchers can share/trade data and integrate results from various sources into their own research. Data sharing can happen through cloud-based storage or any shared online platform. By collaborating, researchers can take great strides in advancing cancer research.


Finally, sarcoma treatment centers can pool their resources and help break down barriers. This allows researchers from different institutions to collaborate and share their knowledge.