Soft tissue sarcomas are cancerous tumors that begin in the
tissues that connect, support or surround the body's organs and structures,
known as soft tissues. These tissues include muscle, tendon, synovial tissue
(around joints), fat, blood vessels, lymph vessels, and nerves. Soft tissue
sarcomas can develop almost anywhere in the body, but in children they are most
common in the arms, legs, chest, and abdomen.
Soft tissue sarcomas affect tissue that
is elastic and easily moved, which means that a tumor may exist for a long time
before being discovered, growing larger and pushing aside surrounding tissue.
with soft tissue sarcoma are treated at Dana-Farber/Boston Children's through our Bone and Soft Tissue Tumors Program. Our integrated pediatric
oncology program offers the combined expertise of a leading cancer center and a
world-renown children’s hospital.
There are many types of soft tissue
As a parent, you undoubtedly want to know what may have
caused your child’s tumor. In most cases, doctors don't know what leads to soft
tissue sarcomas, but many suspect that the cancer's origin is genetic. Soft
tissue sarcoma is not associated with environmental factors, and it is
important to keep in mind that there is nothing you could have done, or avoided
doing, that would have prevented the tumor from developing.
Limited studies have shown a possible link between soft
tissue sarcomas and the development of other types of cancer. Some inherited
diseases have also been associated with an increased risk of developing soft
tissue sarcomas including Li-Fraumeni syndrome or neurofibromatosis. For some soft tissue tumors, there
seems to an association with an Epstein-Barr virus infection.
While each disease has its own
specific symptoms, the most common symptoms of soft tissue sarcoma include:
Keep in mind that
some similar symptoms can be associated with more common medical problems and
conditions. It is important to consult your child's physician for a diagnosis.
The first step in treating your
child is forming an accurate and complete diagnosis. A physician may order a number of different tests to diagnose soft
tissue sarcoma, determine its exact type and whether it has spread. In addition
to a medical history and physical exam, these may include:
There may be other diagnostic tests that your doctor will
discuss with you depending on your child's individual situation. After we
complete all necessary tests, our experts meet to review and discuss what they
have learned about your child's condition. Then we will meet with you and your
family to discuss the results and outline the best possible treatment options.
tissue sarcoma treatment typically involves an approach that combines surgery,
chemotherapy, and radiation. However, in recent years, pediatric oncology physician
scientists at Dana-Farber/Boston Children’s and other leading cancer centers
have learned more about the specific genetic mutations within soft tissue
sarcomas. Some clinical trials are now testing medicines that target these
specific mutations (known as precision
medicine). It is possible that these targeted therapies may play a larger
role in soft tissue sarcoma treatment in the future.
Currently, soft tissue
sarcoma treatment is likely to include:
While chemotherapy can be quite effective in treating certain cancers,
the agents don't completely differentiate normal healthy cells from abnormal
cells. Because of this, your child could have adverse side effects during
At Dana-Farber/Boston Children's, your child will have
access to cutting-edge therapies being tested by the nation's top researchers
in pediatric cancer. Our scientists are conducting numerous research studies to
help doctors better understand and treat soft tissue sarcomas. These include:
We are also the New England Phase I Center for the
Children's Oncology Group, a group of cancer researchers from around the world
dedicated to finding new treatments for pediatric cancer.
For many children with rare, recurrent, or hard-to-treat conditions,
clinical trials provide new options.
Over the past 30 years, there has been drastic improvement
in survival for children with soft tissue sarcomas. Complete surgical removal
can control the tumor in about 80 percent of cases. Adding radiation therapy
after surgery can increase cure rates to 90 to 95 percent. If the tumor can’t
be completely removed or it has spread to other parts of the body, the
prognosis is poorer. Outcomes for progressive or recurrent soft tissue sarcoma
Some children who are treated for
soft tissue sarcoma and other pediatric cancers can experience significant
long-term problems as a result of their treatment. All children who have been
treated for cancer require ongoing, specialized cancer survivorship care.
Through the David B. Perini Jr.
Quality of Life Clinic, our cancer
survivorship clinic, childhood cancer survivors receive a comprehensive
follow-up evaluation from their cancer care team. In addition to meeting with
your pediatric oncologists, your child may see one of our endocrinologists,
cardiologists, neurologists, neuro-psychologists, and/or
alternative/complementary therapy specialists. We also offer patient and family
education, psychosocial assessment, genetic
counseling, reproductive counseling and opportunities to speak with other
childhood cancer survivors.
Phone: 617-632-5508Online form: Request an appointment
Katherine Janeway, MD, talks about caring for children with solid tumors. She is always inspired by the resilience of children with cancer and their families.