On occasion, surgical excision cannot be performed in the initial management of soft tissue sarcomas because the morbidity would be unacceptable or nearby critical organs make complete resection impossible. In such circumstances, radiation has been used as the primary therapy. However, this must be considered a treatment of last resort. Experience is limited to retrospective case series from single centers.[Level of evidence: 3iiiDiv]
Role of Adjuvant or Neoadjuvant Chemotherapy for Clinically Localized Tumors
The role of adjuvant chemotherapy is not completely clear. The investigation of its use falls into two categories or generations—pre- and postifosfamide regimens. In discussions with a patient, any potential benefits should be considered in the context of the short- and long-term toxicities of the chemotherapy.
First-generation trials (preifosfamide)
Several prospective, randomized trials were unable to determine conclusively whether doxorubicin-based adjuvant chemotherapy benefits adults with resectable soft tissue sarcomas. The majority of these studies accrued small numbers of patients and did not demonstrate a metastasis-free survival or an OS benefit for adjuvant chemotherapy. A small study of adjuvant chemotherapy showed a positive effect on both disease-free survival (DFS) and OS in patients treated with postoperative chemotherapy. There was wide interstudy variability among the reported trials, including differences in therapeutic regimens, drug doses, sample size, tumor site, and histologic grade.
A quantitative meta-analysis of updated data from 1,568 individual patients in 14 trials of doxorubicin-based adjuvant therapy showed an absolute benefit from adjuvant therapy of 6% for local relapse-free interval (95% confidence interval [CI], 1%–10%), 10% for distant relapse-free interval (95% CI, 5%–15%), and 10% for recurrence-free survival (95% CI, 5%–15%). A statistically significant OS benefit at 10 years was not detected: absolute difference 4% (95% CI, -1%–+9%).[26,27][Level of evidence: 1iiDii] However, only a small proportion of patients in this meta-analysis were treated with ifosfamide, an agent with demonstrated activity against soft tissue sarcoma. In addition, a subset analysis suggested that patients with sarcomas of the extremities may have benefited from adjuvant chemotherapy (hazard ratio [HR] for death, 0.8, P = .029), but there was no clear evidence that patients with extremity sarcomas had outcomes that were statistically significantly different from the outcomes of patients with tumors at other sites (P = .58).