​Shedding Light on Sarcoma

July is Sarcoma Awareness Month.

Sarcomas are a rare group of cancers in which malignant cells form in the bones or soft tissues of the body.

Soft tissue sarcomas form in cartilage, fat, muscle, blood vessels, tendons, nerves, and around joints. Osteosarcomas develop in bone; liposarcomas form in fat; rhabdomyosarcomas form in muscle; and Ewing sarcomas form in bone and soft tissue.

Bone and joint cancer is most frequently diagnosed among teenagers, while soft tissue cancers typically affect those 55 years or older.

In 2018, over 13,000 cases of soft tissue sarcoma and 3,400 cases of bone sarcomas are expected to be diagnosed in the United States, according to data from the National Cancer Institute’s Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results Program (SEER). Approximately 5,100 and 1,590 people are expected to die from soft tissue and bone sarcomas, respectively. The five-year survival rate for soft tissue sarcomas is 50 percent, while the survival rate is 66 percent for bone sarcomas.

Because sarcomas are difficult to distinguish from other cancers when they are found within organs, their incidence is probably underestimated, according to the National Cancer Institute.

Having certain inherited disorders can increase the risk for soft tissue sarcomas, including retinoblastoma, tuberous sclerosis, Werner syndrome, and nevoid basal cell carcinoma syndrome. Other risk factors for soft tissue sarcoma include past treatment with radiation therapy for certain cancers; exposure to certain chemicals, such as thorium dioxide, vinyl chloride, or arsenic; and long-term lymphedema in the arms or legs.

Past treatment with radiation can increase the risk of osteosarcoma and other types of bone cancers. Other risk factors for osteosarcoma include treatment with anticancer drugs called alkylating agents, having a certain change in the retinoblastoma gene, and having certain conditions including Paget disease, Diamond-Blackfan anemia, and Werner syndrome.

What is the AACR Doing in This Area?

Advances in Sarcomas: From Basic Science to Clinical Translation

In 2017, the AACR hosted a special conference, Advances in Sarcomas: From Basic Science to Clinical Translation, which covered cutting-edge topics on the basic biology of sarcomas and soft-tissue tumors and how these may be translated to the clinic. Recognized experts in the field spoke on the topics of genomics, epigenetics, novel sarcoma models, immunotherapy, sarcoma biology, and targeted therapeutics. The AACR is currently planning future conferences on this topic.

Research Awards

In 2018, the AACR granted the following awards based on meritorious sarcoma-focused research:

  • 2018 AACR Undergraduate Scholar Award: Vidal Arroyo, Chapman University. Study: “1197/8 Soft tissue sarcoma clinical presentation, treatment, and survival in adolescents and young adults compared to older adults: A report from the Scandinavian Sarcoma Group.”
  • 2018 AACR-Aflac, Inc. Scholar-in-Training Award: Jianguo Huang, PhD, Duke University. Study: “Long noncoding RNA NEAT1 promotes lung metastasis of soft tissue sarcoma.”
  • 2018 AACR Scholar-in-Training Award in Memory of Nina Becka: Lillian M. Guenther, MD, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. Study: “Targeting resistance mechanisms to CDK4/6 inhibitors in Ewing sarcoma with an IGF1R inhibitor drug combination strategy.”
  • 2018 AACR Margaret Foti Scholar-in-Training Award in Pediatric Cancer Research: Catherine Drummond, PhD, St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. Study: “Location specificity in fusion-negative rhabdomyosarcoma driven by cell of origin.”
  • 2018 AACR-Pezcoller Foundation Scholar-in-Training Award: Priya Chudasama, PhD, German Cancer Research Center. Study: “Integrative genomic and transcriptomic analysis of leiomyosarcoma.”
  • 2018 AACR-SIC Scholar-in-Training Award: Alessandra De Feo, PhD, Rizzoli Orthopaedic Institute. Study: “Exosome-mediated transfer of sh-CD99 is sufficient to modulate cell differentiation in Ewing sarcoma.”

The AACR's mission is to prevent and cure all forms of cancer

The American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) is a 501c3 registered nonprofit organization with offices at 615 Chestnut Street, 17th Floor, Philadelphia, PA 19106 | 215.440.9300