Soft tissue sarcoma

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Research in soft tissue sarcoma

We are always learning more about cancer. Researchers and healthcare professionals use what they learn from research studies to develop better practices that will help treat soft tissue sarcoma.

Advances in cancer treatment and new ways to manage the side effects from treatment have improved the outlook and quality of life for many people with cancer. The following is a selection of noteworthy research into treatment for soft tissue sarcoma.

We’ve included information from PubMed, which is the research database of the National Library of Medicine. Each research article in PubMed has an identity number (called a PMID) that links to a brief overview (called an abstract). We have also included links to abstracts of the research presented at meetings of the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO), which are held throughout the year. You can find information about ongoing clinical trials in Canada from CanadianCancerTrials.ca and ClinicalTrials.gov. Clinical trials are given an identifier called a national clinical trial (NCT) number. The NCT number links to information about the clinical trial.

Radiation therapy

Research is looking into the role that radiation therapy may have in treating soft tissue sarcoma.

Radiation therapy given after limb-sparing surgery may lower the risk that the soft tissue sarcoma will come back in the same area. A study looked at soft tissue sarcoma in the wrist, hand, ankle or foot. Doctors used limb-sparing surgery to remove most of the cancer, but not the entire limb. Radiation therapy was given after surgery. Results show that combining the 2 treatments controlled the cancer and helped keep the function of the limb as normal as possible (Anticancer Research, PMID 27630336).

Radiation therapy given after surgery may be an effective treatment for high-grade soft tissue sarcomas in the back of the abdomen, outside the membrane that covers the abdominal organs (called the retroperitoneum). An analysis found that people with high-grade retroperitoneal sarcomas who were given radiation therapy after surgery had a higher overall survival than people who only had surgery (ASCO, Abstract 10559).

Find out more about research in radiation therapy.

Chemotherapy

The benefits of chemotherapy for soft tissue sarcoma are unclear because different studies have shown different results. Researchers are looking for new drugs and drug combinations that are effective against soft tissue sarcoma. They are also trying to find out which drugs work best for each type of soft tissue sarcoma.

Imatinib (Gleevec) is a standard treatment for gastrointestinal stromal tumours (GISTs). If there is a high risk that the cancer will come back (recur), this drug is usually continued for 1 year after surgery. A study compared giving people with high-risk GIST imatinib for 1 year or 3 years. Results showed that people who were given imatinib for 3 years lived longer than people who were given the drug for 1 year (Journal of Clinical Oncology, PMID 26527782).

Trabectedin  (Yondelis) may be more effective than dacarbazine (DTIC) in treating liposarcoma or leiomyosarcoma that has spread to other parts of the body and no longer responds to chemotherapy. A study found that trabectedin controlled these types of soft tissue sarcoma better and lowered the risk that cancer would grow and spread better than dacarbazine (Journal of Clinical Oncology, PMID 26371143).

Pazopanib  (Votrient) and gemcitabine (Gemzar) may be more effective than pazopanib alone for people with soft tissue sarcoma that no longer responds to anthracycline drugs. A study found that the combination of pazopanib and gemcitabine increased the amount of time without any evidence of the cancer getting worse (called progression-free survival). People with liposarcoma seem to benefit the most from the combination of these drugs (ASCO, Abstract 11004).

Other drugs and drug combinations may also be treatment options for soft tissue sarcoma. Phase II clinical trials are looking at the following drugs in small numbers of people with soft tissue sarcoma:

Chemoradiation is treatment that combines chemotherapy with radiation therapy. The 2 treatments are given during the same time period. A clinical trial at several Canadian cancer treatment centres is currently trying to find out if giving chemoradiation before surgery improves prognosis and survival in adults and children with soft tissue sarcoma. People involved in the clinical trial will be followed closely for 5 years. They will be assigned to one of the following 4 groups (NCT 02180867):

  • Group 1 will be given pazopanib, ifosfamide (Ifex) and doxorubicin (Adriamycin) along with radiation therapy.
  • Group 2 will be given ifosfamide and doxorubicin along with radiation therapy.
  • Group 3 will be given pazopanib followed by radiation therapy.
  • Group 4 will be given radiation therapy only.

Find out more about research in chemotherapy.

Learn more about cancer research

Researchers continue to try to find out more about soft tissue sarcoma. Clinical trials are research studies that test new ways to prevent, detect, treat or manage soft tissue sarcoma. Clinical trials provide information about the safety and effectiveness of new approaches to see if they should become widely available. Most of the standard treatments for soft tissue sarcoma were first shown to be effective through clinical trials.

Find out more about cancer research and clinical trials.

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