Chemotherapy for bone cancer

You may have chemotherapy as part of your treatment for primary bone cancer. This uses anti-cancer drugs to destroy cancer cells.

About chemotherapy for bone cancer

Chemotherapy uses anti-cancer (cytotoxic) drugs to destroy cancer cells.

Chemotherapy is an important part of treatment for most people with:

It is not used often for other types of primary bone cancer.

Chemotherapy may be given:

  • before you have surgery or radiotherapy
  • after surgery or radiotherapy
  • if the cancer comes back after treatment.

If you have osteosarcoma or Ewing sarcoma, you usually have chemotherapy before and after surgery.

Before having chemotherapy, you have tests to check your general health. It takes a few days to get the results. Your cancer doctor will talk with you about this.

Having chemotherapy

The drugs you have can depend on the type of bone sarcoma. You usually have a combination of drugs. These may include:

Combination chemotherapy for bone sarcoma

Primary bone cancer might be treated with a combination of chemotherapy drugs.

Osteosarcoma is usually treated with:

Children, teenagers and young adults (aged 30 or under) with osteosarcoma may be given a targeted therapy drug with the chemotherapy.

Ewing sarcoma is often treated with:

How chemotherapy is given

Your cancer doctor or specialist nurse will tell you which drugs you will be given.

Chemotherapy drugs are usually given by injection into a vein (intravenously). They are given as a session called a cycle of treatment. You may have chemotherapy as an outpatient, or you may need to go into hospital for a few days.

Each treatment is followed by a rest period of a few weeks. This is to allow you to recover from any side effects.

The number of cycles you have depends on the type of primary bone cancer you have and how it responds to the treatment. There are different ways chemotherapy drugs given into a vein (intravenously) can be given. We have more information about the different ways chemotherapy may be given into the vein.

Getting support

Macmillan is here to support you. If you would like to talk, you can:

About our information

  • References

    Below is a sample of the sources used in our information about primary bone cancer. If you would like more information about the sources we use, please contact us at

    European Society for Medical Oncology, ESMO. 2021. Bone sarcomas: ESMOeEURACANeGENTURISeERN PaedCan Clinical Practice Guideline for diagnosis, treatment and follow-up. Annals of Oncology. S. J. Strauss1 et al. Available at: (accessed July 2023)

    UK guidelines for the management of bone sarcomas, Clinical Sarcoma Research (2016) 6:7. Gerrand C et al on behalf of the British Sarcoma Group. Available at: UK guidelines for the management of bone sarcomas - PMC ( July 2023)

    British Medical Journal, BMJ Best Practice. Osteosarcoma. Last updated May 2022. Last reviewed 27 Jun 2023. Available at: Osteosarcoma - Symptoms, diagnosis and treatment | BMJ Best Practice (accessed July 2023)

  • Reviewers

    This information has been written, revised and edited by Macmillan Cancer Support’s Cancer Information Development team. It has been reviewed by expert medical and health professionals and people living with cancer. It has been approved by senior medical editor Fiona Cowie, Consultant Clinical Oncologist.

    Our cancer information has been awarded the PIF TICK. Created by the Patient Information Forum, this quality mark shows we meet PIF’s 10 criteria for trustworthy health information.

The language we use

We want everyone affected by cancer to feel our information is written for them.

We want our information to be as clear as possible. To do this, we try to:

  • use plain English
  • explain medical words
  • use short sentences
  • use illustrations to explain text
  • structure the information clearly
  • make sure important points are clear.

We use gender-inclusive language and talk to our readers as ‘you’ so that everyone feels included. Where clinically necessary we use the terms ‘men’ and ‘women’ or ‘male’ and ‘female’. For example, we do so when talking about parts of the body or mentioning statistics or research about who is affected.

You can read more about how we produce our information here.

Date reviewed

Reviewed: 01 December 2022
Next review: 01 December 2025
Trusted Information Creator - Patient Information Forum
Trusted Information Creator - Patient Information Forum

Our cancer information meets the PIF TICK quality mark.

This means it is easy to use, up-to-date and based on the latest evidence. Learn more about how we produce our information.