Together against osteosarcoma



Walking was becoming increasingly difficult for Saartje. The vets at the University Animal Hospital in Utrecht quickly established what was wrong: Saartje had osteosarcoma, a type of bone cancer that occurs in both dogs and children.  

In order to save Saartje's life, the vets amputated her leg. Now Saartje is pain-free, and the malignant tumor can't spread any further.

What's more, Saartje's tumor kickstarts an important research project aimed at helping both dogs and children with osteosarcoma.


Drs. Roelof van Ewijk is a fellow in pediatric oncology and a researcher at the Princess Máxima Center for pediatric oncology in Utrecht. “Bone cancer is a rare disease. Osteosarcoma is the most common form of bone cancer in children and young adults. It is a highly form of aggressive cancer for which treatment with chemotherapy and surgery are very important. We are working very hard to improve the treatment, but at the moment, in 2 out of 5 patients, the cancer will return.”


Further research is urgently needed


Dr. Maurice Zandvliet is a veterinarian at the University Animal Hospital and specializes in veterinary oncology. “Bone tumors do not only occur in humans. Osteosarcoma is the most common bone tumor in dogs and, in certain breeds, even 27 times more common in dogs than in humans. We know from various scientific studies that osteosarcoma in humans and animals are surprisingly similar and behave very similarly in the patient."

“By studying MRI scans and the sensitivity of the tumor tissue to medication, among other things, we'll be able to gain a better understanding of how this tumor works and how we might be able to defeat it. And by treating osteosarcoma in dogs, we simultaneously gain new insights into how osteosarcoma works in humans. That way, we are able to make substantial contributions to improve diagnostics and treatment options.”

In addition, the specialists of the Princess Máxima Center for pediatric oncology are much further in the field of treatment methods. Pediatric oncologist Dr. Lianne Haveman explains: “In addition to conducting research together, we can advise our veterinary colleagues on how to treat osteosarcoma in dogs more effectively. Through exchanging knowledge about osteosarcoma we are able to fasttrack the development in both human and veterinary medicine."


Collaboration of the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, UMC and PMC


Treating a dog with osteosarcoma, while at the same time gaining valuable insight into how osteosarcoma works in children? That is where the research team from the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, the Princess Máxima Center and the UMC Utrecht are aiming towards.

Prof. Jeroen Hendrikse is chairman of the image and oncology division of UMC Utrecht. “Utrecht Science Park is at the forefront, both nationally and internationally, to promote and advance these kinds of collaboration. In this project we want to bundle our joint expertise in the field of radiology and oncology in humans and animals, and together develop greater knowledge on how to treat osteosarcoma - and cancer in general - in human and veterinary patients even better.”

The collaboration between veterinary and human medicine in the field of osteosarcoma is just one example of the enormous value of so-called "One Medicine" research. New insights into the diagnosis, treatment and prognosis of cancer in veterinary patients not only lead to an improvement in the health and welfare of animals, but can also mean a lot in the fight against cancer in humans, while at the same time reducing the use of laboratory animals. 


Will you help?


Your contribution ensures that we'll be able to help dogs and children with osteosarcoma even better. Let's fight cancer together!

Are you the owner of a dog with osteosarcoma and are you considering treatment? Please leave your contact details here. One of our oncologists will contact you as soon as possible to inform you about the treatment options.