Ewing Sarcoma Treatment (PDQ®): Treatment - Health Professional Information [NCI] - Ewing Sarcoma: Metastatic Tumors

Metastases at diagnosis are detected in approximately 25% of patients.[1] The prognosis of patients with metastatic disease is poor. Current therapies for patients who present with metastatic disease achieve 6-year event-free survival (EFS) of approximately 28% and overall survival (OS) of approximately 30%.[2,3] For patients with lung/pleural metastases only, 6-year EFS is approximately 40% when utilizing bilateral lung irradiation.[2,4] In contrast, patients with bone/bone marrow metastases have a 4-year EFS of approximately 28% and patients with combined lung and bone/bone marrow metastases have a 4-year EFS of approximately 14%.[4,5] Factors such as age older than 14 years, a primary tumor volume of more than 200 mL, more than one bone metastatic site, bone marrow metastases, and additional lung metastases independently predict a poor outcome in patients presenting with metastatic disease.[3]

Standard Treatment Options

Standard treatment for patients with metastatic Ewing sarcoma utilizing alternating vincristine, doxorubicin, cyclophosphamide, and ifosfamide/etoposide combined with adequate local control measures applied to both primary and metastatic sites often results in complete or partial responses; however, the overall cure rate is 20%.[5,6,7] In the Intergroup Ewing Sarcoma Study, patients with metastatic disease showed no benefit from the addition of ifosfamide and etoposide to a standard regimen of vincristine, doxorubicin, cyclophosphamide, and actinomycin-D.[7] In another Intergroup study, increasing dose intensity of cyclophosphamide, ifosfamide, and doxorubicin did not improve outcome compared with regimens utilizing standard-dose intensity. This regimen increased toxicity and risk of second malignancy without improving EFS or OS.[2]

Systematic use of radiation therapy and surgery for metastatic sites may improve overall outcome in patients with extrapulmonary metastases. In a retrospective data analysis of 120 patients with multifocal metastatic Ewing sarcoma, patients receiving local treatment of both primary tumor and metastases had a better outcome than patients receiving local treatment of primary tumor only or with no local treatment (3-year EFS, 39% vs. 17% and 14%, P < .001).[8] A similar trend for better outcome with irradiation of all sites of metastatic disease was seen in two retrospective analyses of smaller groups of patients receiving radiation therapy to all tumor sites.[9,10] These results must be interpreted with caution. The patients who received local control therapy to all known sites of metastatic disease were selected by the treating investigator, not randomly assigned. Patients with so many metastases that radiation to all sites would result in bone marrow failure were not selected to receive radiation to all sites of metastatic disease. Patients who did not achieve control of the primary tumor did not go on to have local control of all sites of metastatic disease. There was a selection bias such that while all patients in these reports had multiple sites of metastatic disease, the patients who had surgery and/or radiation therapy of all sites of clinically detectable metastatic disease had better responses to systemic therapy and fewer sites of metastasis than patients who did not undergo similar therapy of metastatic sites.


Radiation therapy should be delivered in a setting in which stringent planning techniques are applied by those experienced in the treatment of Ewing sarcoma. Such an approach will result in local control of tumor with acceptable morbidity in most patients.[11] Metastatic sites of disease in bone and soft tissues should receive fractionated radiation therapy doses totaling between 45 Gy and 56 Gy. All patients with pulmonary metastases should undergo whole-lung radiation, even if complete resolution of overt pulmonary metastatic disease has been achieved with chemotherapy.[4,5,12] Radiation doses are modulated based on the amount of lung to be radiated and on pulmonary function. Doses between 12 Gy and 15 Gy are generally used if whole lungs are treated.

More intensive therapies, many of which incorporate high-dose chemotherapy with or without total-body irradiation in conjunction with stem cell support, have not shown improvement in EFS rates for patients with bone and/or bone marrow metastases.[2,3,9,13,14,15] The impact of high-dose chemotherapy with peripheral blood stem cell support for patients with lung metastases is unknown and is being studied in the EURO-EWING-INTERGROUP-EE99 trial.[13] European investigators frequently use high-dose chemotherapy and stem cell support for patients with extrapulmonary metastatic sites; use of high-dose therapy and autologous stem cell reconstitution for patients with metastases at extrapulmonary sites is an investigator choice in the EURO-EWING-INTERGROUP-EE99 (COG-AEWS0331) study. It is not being studied as a randomized prospective question, but the study will acquire data about the outcome of patients treated with this consolidation. Melphalan, at nonmyeloablative doses, has proved to be an active agent in an upfront window study for patients with metastatic disease at diagnosis; however, the cure rate remained extremely low.[16]

Treatment Options Under Clinical Evaluation

The following is an example of an international clinical trial that is currently being conducted. Information about ongoing clinical trials is available from the NCI Web site.

  • EURO-EWING-INTERGROUP-EE99 (COG-AEWS0331/NCT00020566) (Combination Chemotherapy With or Without Peripheral Stem Cell Transplantation, Radiation Therapy, and/or Surgery in Treating Patients With Ewing Sarcoma): A randomized study for patients with pulmonary metastases only, which is evaluating standard chemotherapy and peripheral blood stem cell transplant versus standard chemotherapy and bilateral lung radiation, is being conducted in Europe and certain cancer centers in the United States. The Children's Oncology Group (COG) member institutions are participating in a limited way in the Euro-Ewing study. Specifically, the study is open through the COG for patients who present with metastases limited to the lung. They will be enrolled in the Euro-Ewing study and will be randomly assigned to receive chemotherapy or high-dose therapy with autologous stem cell reconstitution after induction chemotherapy and local control.


Current Clinical Trials

Check for U.S. clinical trials from NCI's list of cancer clinical trials that are now accepting patients with metastatic Ewing sarcoma/peripheral primitive neuroectodermal tumor. The list of clinical trials can be further narrowed by location, drug, intervention, and other criteria.

General information about clinical trials is also available from the NCI Web site.


  1. Esiashvili N, Goodman M, Marcus RB Jr: Changes in incidence and survival of Ewing sarcoma patients over the past 3 decades: Surveillance Epidemiology and End Results data. J Pediatr Hematol Oncol 30 (6): 425-30, 2008.
  2. Miser JS, Goldsby RE, Chen Z, et al.: Treatment of metastatic Ewing sarcoma/primitive neuroectodermal tumor of bone: evaluation of increasing the dose intensity of chemotherapy--a report from the Children's Oncology Group. Pediatr Blood Cancer 49 (7): 894-900, 2007.
  3. Ladenstein R, Pötschger U, Le Deley MC, et al.: Primary disseminated multifocal Ewing sarcoma: results of the Euro-EWING 99 trial. J Clin Oncol 28 (20): 3284-91, 2010.
  4. Paulussen M, Ahrens S, Craft AW, et al.: Ewing's tumors with primary lung metastases: survival analysis of 114 (European Intergroup) Cooperative Ewing's Sarcoma Studies patients. J Clin Oncol 16 (9): 3044-52, 1998.
  5. Paulussen M, Ahrens S, Burdach S, et al.: Primary metastatic (stage IV) Ewing tumor: survival analysis of 171 patients from the EICESS studies. European Intergroup Cooperative Ewing Sarcoma Studies. Ann Oncol 9 (3): 275-81, 1998.
  6. Pinkerton CR, Bataillard A, Guillo S, et al.: Treatment strategies for metastatic Ewing's sarcoma. Eur J Cancer 37 (11): 1338-44, 2001.
  7. Miser JS, Krailo MD, Tarbell NJ, et al.: Treatment of metastatic Ewing's sarcoma or primitive neuroectodermal tumor of bone: evaluation of combination ifosfamide and etoposide--a Children's Cancer Group and Pediatric Oncology Group study. J Clin Oncol 22 (14): 2873-6, 2004.
  8. Haeusler J, Ranft A, Boelling T, et al.: The value of local treatment in patients with primary, disseminated, multifocal Ewing sarcoma (PDMES). Cancer 116 (2): 443-50, 2010.
  9. Burdach S, Thiel U, Schöniger M, et al.: Total body MRI-governed involved compartment irradiation combined with high-dose chemotherapy and stem cell rescue improves long-term survival in Ewing tumor patients with multiple primary bone metastases. Bone Marrow Transplant 45 (3): 483-9, 2010.
  10. Paulino AC, Mai WY, Teh BS: Radiotherapy in metastatic ewing sarcoma. Am J Clin Oncol 36 (3): 283-6, 2013.
  11. Donaldson SS, Torrey M, Link MP, et al.: A multidisciplinary study investigating radiotherapy in Ewing's sarcoma: end results of POG #8346. Pediatric Oncology Group. Int J Radiat Oncol Biol Phys 42 (1): 125-35, 1998.
  12. Spunt SL, McCarville MB, Kun LE, et al.: Selective use of whole-lung irradiation for patients with Ewing sarcoma family tumors and pulmonary metastases at the time of diagnosis. J Pediatr Hematol Oncol 23 (2): 93-8, 2001.
  13. Meyers PA, Krailo MD, Ladanyi M, et al.: High-dose melphalan, etoposide, total-body irradiation, and autologous stem-cell reconstitution as consolidation therapy for high-risk Ewing's sarcoma does not improve prognosis. J Clin Oncol 19 (11): 2812-20, 2001.
  14. Burdach S, Meyer-Bahlburg A, Laws HJ, et al.: High-dose therapy for patients with primary multifocal and early relapsed Ewing's tumors: results of two consecutive regimens assessing the role of total-body irradiation. J Clin Oncol 21 (16): 3072-8, 2003.
  15. Thiel U, Wawer A, Wolf P, et al.: No improvement of survival with reduced- versus high-intensity conditioning for allogeneic stem cell transplants in Ewing tumor patients. Ann Oncol 22 (7): 1614-21, 2011.
  16. Luksch R, Grignani G, Fagioli F, et al.: Response to melphalan in up-front investigational window therapy for patients with metastatic Ewing's family tumours. Eur J Cancer 43 (5): 885-90, 2007.
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