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BackgroundThe prognosis of patients with metastatic osteosarcoma remains poor. However, the chance of survival can be improved by surgical resection of all metastases. In this study we investigate the value of serum alkaline phosphatase (ALP) and lactate dehydrogenase (LDH) in predicting the presence of metastatic disease at time of diagnosis.MethodsSixty-one patients with histologically confirmed conventional osteosarcoma of the extremity were included in the study. Only 19.7% of cases presented without evidence of systemic spread of the disease. Pre-treatment serum ALP and LDH were analysed in patients with and without skeletal or pulmonary metastases.ResultsSerum LDH and ALP levels were not significantly different in patients with or without pulmonary metastases (p=0.88 and p=0.47, respectively). The serum LDH and ALP levels did however differ significantly in patients with or without skeletal metastases (p<0.001 and p=0.02, respectively). The optimal breakpoint for serum LDH as a marker of skeletal metastases was 849 IU/L (AUC 0.839; Sensitivity=0.88; Specificity=0.73). LDH >454 IU/L equated to 100% sensitivity for detected bone metastases (positive diagnostic likelihood ratio (DLR)=1.32). With a cut-off of 76 IU/L a sensitivity of 100% was reached for serum ALP predicting the presence of skeletal metastases (positive DLR=1.1). In a multivariate analysis both LDH ≥850 IU/L (odds ratio [OR]=9; 95% confidence interval (CI) 1.8-44.3) and ALP ≥280 IU/L (OR=10.3; 95% CI 2.1-50.5) were predictive of skeletal metastases. LDH however lost its significance in a multivariate model which included pre-treatment tumour volume.ConclusionIn cases of osteosarcoma with LDH >850 IU/L and/or ALP >280 IU/L it may be prudent to consider more sensitive staging investigations for detection of skeletal metastases. Further research is required to determine the value and the most sensitive cut-off points of serum ALP and LDH in the prediction of skeletal metastases.

Original publication





Journal of bone oncology

Publication Date





80 - 84


Tumor, Sepsis and Reconstruction Unit, Department of Orthopaedic Surgery, Greys Hospital, School of Clinical Medicine, University of KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa.