Circulating Repetitive Element RNAs as an Osteosarcoma Marker
Osteosarcoma is a highly-malignant bone tumor in children, adolescents and young adults. The tumors form in ~5 in one million individuals per year, ages 0-19, giving an overall risk of ~1/10,000 over the first 20 years. Some children who develop osteosarcoma have a genetic predisposition, whereas others have a predisposition based on their prior exposure to certain cancer treatments. Regardless of predisposing factors, osteosarcomas often fail to respond to available therapies or rapidly relapse. For these reasons, biomarkers are needed to both detect early osteosarcoma tumors before they progress to larger and more therapy-resistant forms and to monitor the tumor’s response to therapy. We identified a novel biomarker that is elevated in the blood of each of 12 patients with newly-diagnosed osteosarcoma compared to healthy individuals. Specifically, we found that so-called repetitive element RNAs are significantly increased in the small bits of tumor cells, called extracellular vesicles (EVs), which circulate in the blood of osteosarcoma patients.
This study seeks to develop a test to identify these osteosarcoma-related repetitive element RNAs in predisposed children before osteosarcomas develop, to test whether such EVs can monitor response to therapy and relapse and to identify what has gone wrong in the tumor cells that enables their increased production. These studies are expected to lead to a new osteosarcoma marker test and possibly new therapeutic approaches that may substantially improve outcomes for osteosarcoma patients.