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General Information About Osteosarcoma and Malignant Fibrous Histiocytoma (MFH) of Bone


Tumor size

Larger tumors have a worse prognosis than smaller tumors.[10,26] Tumor size has been assessed by the longest single dimension, by the cross-sectional area, or by an estimate of tumor volume; all have correlated with outcome. Serum lactate dehydrogenase (LDH), which also correlates with outcome, is a likely surrogate for tumor volume.

Presence of clinically detectable metastatic disease

Patients with localized disease have a much better prognosis than those with overt metastatic disease. As many as 20% of patients will have radiographically detectable metastases at diagnosis, with the lung being the most common site.[27] The prognosis for patients with metastatic disease appears to be determined largely by the site(s), the number of metastases, and the surgical resectability of the metastatic disease.[28,29]

  • Site of metastases: Prognosis appears more favorable for patients with fewer pulmonary nodules and for those with unilateral rather than bilateral pulmonary metastases;[28] not all patients with suspected pulmonary metastases at diagnosis have osteosarcoma confirmed at the time of lung resection. In one large series, approximately 25% of patients had exclusively benign lesions removed at the time of surgery.[29]
  • Number of metastases: Patients with skip metastases (at least two discontinuous lesions in the same bone) have been reported to have inferior prognoses.[30] Analysis of the German Cooperative Osteosarcoma Study experience, however, suggests that skip lesions in the same bone do not confer an inferior prognosis if they are included in planned surgical resection. Skip lesions across a joint have a worse prognosis.[31] Skip metastasis in a bone other than the primary bone should be considered systemic metastasis. Traditionally, metastasis across a joint has been referred to as a skip lesion. Metastasis across a joint might be considered hematogenous spread and it has a worse outcome.

    Patients with multifocal osteosarcoma (defined as multiple bone lesions without a clear primary tumor) have an extremely poor prognosis.[32]

  • Surgical resectability of metastases: Patients who have complete surgical ablation of the primary and metastatic tumor (when confined to the lung) following chemotherapy may attain long-term survival, though overall event-free survival remains about 20% to 30% for patients with metastatic disease at diagnosis.[28,29,33,34]

Adequacy of tumor resection

Resectability of the tumor is a critical prognostic feature because osteosarcoma is relatively resistant to radiation therapy. Complete resection of the primary tumor and any skip lesions with adequate margins is generally considered essential for cure. A retrospective review of patients with craniofacial osteosarcoma performed by the German-Austrian-Swiss osteosarcoma cooperative group reported that incomplete surgical resection was associated with inferior survival probability.[15][Level of evidence: 3iiB] For patients with axial skeletal primaries who either do not have surgery for their primary tumor or who have surgery resulting in positive margins, radiation therapy may improve survival.[14,35] In a European cooperative study, the size of the margin was not significant. However, having both the biopsy and resection at a center with orthopedic oncology experience conferred a better prognosis.[12]


WebMD Public Information from the National Cancer Institute

Last Updated: February 25, 2014
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.

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