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Childhood Soft Tissue Sarcoma Treatment (PDQ®): Treatment - Health Professional Information [NCI] - Treatment Option Overview


Retroperitoneal sarcomas are a special issue since radiosensitivity of the bowel to injury makes postoperative radiation therapy less desirable. Reasons for this include the postoperative adhesions and bowel immobility that increase the risk of damage from any given radiation dose. This is in contrast to the preoperative approach in which the tumor often displaces bowel outside of the radiation field, and any exposed bowel is more mobile, which decreases exposure to specific bowel segments.

Radiation volume and dose depend on all patient, tumor, and surgical variables as noted above. Considerations include patient age and growth potential, the ability to avoid critical organs, epiphyseal plates, and lymphatics (but not the neurovascular bundles that are relatively radiation tolerant), and the functional/cosmetic outcome. Radiation margins are typically 2 cm to 4 cm longitudinally, and encompassing fascial planes axially. Radiation doses are typically 45 Gy to 50 Gy preoperatively, with consideration for postoperative boost of 10 Gy to 20 Gy if resection margins are microscopically or grossly positive, or planned brachytherapy if the resection is predicted to be subtotal. However, data documenting the efficacy of a postoperative boost are lacking.[27] The postoperative radiation dose is 55 Gy to 60 Gy, or rarely, higher in the situation where unresectable gross residual disease exists.


The role of adjuvant (postoperative) chemotherapy remains controversial.[28] A meta-analysis of updated data from adult STS patients from all available randomized trials concluded that recurrence-free survival was better with adjuvant chemotherapy for patients with high-grade tumors larger than 5 cm.[29] The largest prospective pediatric trial failed to demonstrate any benefit with adjuvant vincristine, dactinomycin, cyclophosphamide, and doxorubicin.[17]

Special Treatment Considerations for Children With STS

Many therapeutic strategies for children and adolescents with soft tissue tumors are similar to those for adult patients, although there are important differences. For example, the biology of the neoplasm in pediatric patients may differ dramatically from that of the adult lesion. Additionally, limb-sparing procedures are more difficult to perform in pediatric patients. The morbidity associated with radiation therapy, particularly in infants and young children, may be much greater than that observed in adults.[30]

Improved outcomes with multimodality therapy in adults and children with STSs over the past 20 years has caused increasing concern about the potential long-term side effects of this therapy in children, especially when considering the expected longer life span of children versus adults. Therefore, to maximize tumor control and minimize long-term morbidity, treatment must be individualized for children and adolescents with nonrhabdomyosarcomatous STS. These patients should be enrolled in prospective studies that accurately assess any potential complications.[31]


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Last Updated: February 25, 2014
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