Cancer Services

Sarcoma (Soft Tissue and Bone Cancer)

Soft tissue sarcomas arise from tissues such as fat, muscles, nerves, fibrous tissues, blood vessels, and deep skin tissues. They are extremely rare, and there are as many as 100 different types. Because each one is treated differently and they are often quite challenging to treat successfully, specialized care provided by doctors with sarcoma expertise is essential. At NewYork-Presbyterian, a team of sarcoma experts from different surgical and medical disciplines meets regularly to discuss your care and to tailor a plan of treatment that meets your needs. For many people with soft tissue sarcomas, access to innovative therapies in clinical trials offers the most hope, and we offer participation in these vital studies. Patients come to us from across the country and around the world for this high level of care.

A Team of Sarcoma Experts

Because many soft tissue sarcomas have grown to an advanced stage by the time they are diagnosed, it is important to receive care at an academic medical center, where treatments are based on the findings of the latest medical research and clinical trials of investigational therapies are available. NewYork-Presbyterian is home to the strongest multidisciplinary Sarcoma Center on the East Coast. Your collaborative team includes surgeons, medical oncologists, radiation oncologists, pathologists, oncology nurses, social workers, psychosocial support specialists, and others with exceptional experience and compassion in caring for people with sarcoma and their families.

Expertise Treating a Variety of Sarcomas

Our doctors have experience diagnosing and treating many types of soft tissue sarcoma, such as:

  • Angiosarcoma (arising in the blood or lymphatic vessels)
  • Chondrosarcoma (tumors in the cartilage)
  • Ewing's sarcoma (affects cells of primitive nerve epithelial tissues)
  • Gastrointestinal stromal tumor (GIST, in the digestive tract)
  • Kaposi's sarcoma (in blood vessels and supporting cells, most often in people with HIV)
  • Leiomyosarcoma (tumors of smooth muscle cells)
  • Liposarcoma (affects fat cells and tissue)
  • Undifferentiated pleomorphic sarcoma (the most common soft tissue tumor found in the arms or legs of adults)
  • Malignant peripheral nerve sheath tumor, Osteosarcoma (tumor of bone)
  • Rhabdomyosarcoma (arises in skeletal muscle)
  • Synovial sarcoma (tumors of connective tissue cells near a joint)
  • Solitary Fibrous Tumor (tumors of connective tissue, often blood vessels)

Specialized Sarcoma Surgery

If surgery is part of your treatment plan, we'll speak with you about your options and customize an approach that works best for you, bringing in any experts you need to achieve the best outcome.

  • Making inoperable tumors operable. Some sarcomas affect vital structures, such as major blood vessels, and may be inoperable at the time of diagnosis. Sometimes chemotherapy and radiation therapy can shrink the tumor and make it operable. Other sarcomas can be surgically removed and may also require reconstructive surgery to maintain or restore form or function.
  • Limb-sparing surgery. About 90 percent of people with sarcomas in the arms or legs are candidates for limb-sparing surgery. The goal of limb-sparing surgery is to preserve as much of the muscles, ligaments, and nerves as possible. Our cancer surgeons, orthopedic surgeons, neurologists, and reconstructive surgeons collaborate to perform these intricate and innovative procedures.

Advancing Chemotherapy for Sarcoma Care

Many people with soft tissue sarcoma require chemotherapy — sometimes several different regimens — to control the growth of cancer cells. At NewYork-Presbyterian, we perform genetic analysis of your tumor to identify the molecules that are driving its growth and matching you with the drugs that target those molecules. You may receive chemotherapy before surgery ("neoadjuvant" treatment) or after ("adjuvant" therapy).

  • Infusion therapies. Examples of intravenous chemotherapy drugs for sarcoma include doxorubicin, gemcitabine, docetaxel, ifosfamide, cyclophosphamide, vincristine, etoposide, and dacarbazine. We use these drugs alone or in combination, depending on the type and stage of your sarcoma. We give chemotherapy in NewYork-Presbyterian's modern infusion suites, which are staffed by oncology nurses with the skill, compassion, and experience to monitor you during treatment and ensure you are comfortable.
  • Oral medications. Some people with sarcoma can take oral targeted anticancer drugs (by mouth), such as pazopanib, imatinib, sunitinib, and regorafenib. Your doctor will let you know if this is an option for your cancer type.
  • Extending survival through research. Our investigators are helping people with sarcoma live longer through novel treatment combinations. For example, Columbia University Medical Center researchers reported that adding the sarcoma drug olaratumab to doxorubicin therapy in people with metastatic soft tissue sarcoma increased their survival by nearly a year compared with doxorubicin alone — the first appreciable improvement in sarcoma outcomes in decades.

Precise Radiation Delivery

Many of our patients with soft tissue sarcoma receive radiation therapy before or after surgery.

  • External radiation treatments. We give intensity-modulated radiation therapy (IMRT) and other forms of external beam radiation therapy in our state-of-the-art radiation treatment centers. IMRT delivers highly focused radiation beams of different intensities, shaped to the contours of your tumor, sparing more nearby healthy tissues and reducing your risk of side effects.
  • Radiation during surgery. We can give a large dose of radiation in the operating room right after the tumor is removed before the wound is closed. With this approach, the radiation doesn't have to travel through the healthy tissue surrounding the tumor. Often after IORT, we give some other type of radiation after surgery as well.
  • Internal radiation. With brachytherapy, we place small pellets (or seeds) of radioactive material in or near cancer using very thin catheters (tubes). The pellets deliver high doses of radiation and only stay in place for minutes or days at a time.

Clinical Trials for Sarcoma

We participate in clinical trials to evaluate new approaches to caring for people with soft tissue sarcomas, including leading new studies and participating in multicenter national and international studies. Many of these studies are evaluating targeted therapies for soft tissue sarcoma as well as immunotherapies — treatments that boost the power of the immune system to find and destroy sarcoma cells. You may have the opportunity to participate in a clinical trial of a promising new therapy.

Supportive Care to Address All Your Needs

Our nutritionists, social workers, rehabilitation therapists, palliative care experts, and others will help you and your loved ones address the effects of cancer and its treatment — physical, emotional, and spiritual. We understand the burden that cancer can place on your life and the lives of your loved ones, and we do whatever we can to lessen that burden.

Specialists and Subspecialists in Every Area

NewYork-Presbyterian is known throughout the world as a leading provider of health care. As a major medical center, we can address all of your healthcare needs, such as co-existing conditions like heart disease and diabetes, and connect you with the specialists you need to meet those needs.

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