Advancements in Treatment for Children with Bone Cancer

HoganLaura Hogan, MD
Division Chief
Division of Pediatric Hematology/Oncology
Stony Brook Cancer Center
KhanFazel Khan, MD
Orthopaedic Oncologist
Division of Surgical Oncology
Stony Brook Cancer Center

With the recruitment of orthopaedic oncology surgeon Dr. Fazel Khan, Stony Brook Medicine is bringing significant advancements to people faced with primary and secondary bone cancer in Suffolk County. Here, Dr. Laura Hogan, Division Chief of Pediatric Hematology/ Oncology, and Dr. Khan talk about the advantages that these latest treatment options offer patients and their families.

What are some of the most recent advances in the treatment of bone cancer?
One of the most important breakthroughs is the ability to perform limb-sparing robotic-assisted surgery. Stony Brook is one of the few medical centers that have the capability and technology to do so. With the O-arm® Surgical Imaging System, surgeons have a more accurate and highly magnified view of the affected area. This results in better identification and removal of the cancer while leaving more of the healthy tissue intact. The patient receives a direct quality-of-life benefit since, for many patients, the cancer may be treated while preserving much of the surrounding area that may involve a limb, a bone socket or the pelvis. Patients who have had this surgery followed by chemotherapy have had a substantially improved survival rate. Prior to this surgical option, many patients with bone cancer would require amputation and outcomes were not optimal.

What else is new for patients at Stony Brook?
Currently, Stony Brook and the Mayo Clinic are two of only a few institutions in the world using a new material, called tantalum, for joint replacements in patients with metastatic bone cancer. Tantalum is a titanium-like material with a major benefit: it needs dramatically less “good” bone in order to attach to the replacement socket. For example, when bone cancer destroys a patient’s hip joint, traditional surgery is usually impossible because there is not enough of this good bone available. This can leave patients in agonizing pain, requiring large doses of pain medication, which, in turn, may leave them with a host of undesirable symptoms. Through the use of the tantalum material, surgeons can reconstruct the joint by attaching the new socket to the remaining bone. This not only gives patients more mobility and functionality, but it also substantially relieves their pain and decreases the amount of pain medication they may need.

What is the impact on the patient’s quality of life?
We use the latest surgical techniques to help the patient have the best quality of life possible, even in situations where it is expected that a patient may only have a short time to live. But as the technology has improved and our understanding of quality-of-life issues has become more developed, doctors who treat cancer are more willing to intervene surgically, even if a patient has perhaps six more weeks to live. This allows them to live with minimal pain and fewer medications. Patients can be alert and functioning during this critical time in their lives so that they can address any important decisions and spend valuable time with their loved ones.

For more information about bone cancer, or to make an appointment with an orthopaedic oncologist, call (631) 638-1000.