The Sarcoma Program at Smilow Cancer Hospital consists of a multidisciplinary team of physicians who diagnose, treat, and provide expert care for patients with both soft tissue sarcomas and sarcomas of the bone, or osteosarcoma.
Our team includes orthopedic physicians, dermatologists, diagnostic radiologists, medical oncologists, pediatric oncologists, radiation oncologists, and pathologists, all with specific expertise in the treatment and care of patients with sarcoma.
For diagnosis, our physicians employ state-of-the-art methods including CT scanning, which is excellent at seeing both bone and soft tissues; MRI, which has the ability to “view” the tissue in and around bone with exquisite detail; PET scanning that is able to look at the cancer’s biological activity at the cellular level; bone scans that use a very small amount of radioactive material to check for cancer cells within the bone; and X-ray. Bone scans can also be performed to check for cancer cells in the bone.
Surgery is often a key treatment for patients with sarcomas of the bone. Upon consultation to determine a treatment plan designed to meet the individual needs of the patient, the following types of surgery may be considered:
Wide local excision: Removal of the cancer and some healthy tissue around it.
Limb-sparing surgery: Removal of the tumor in an arm or leg without amputation, preserving the use and appearance of the limb. The tumor is removed—and tissue and bone that are removed may be replaced with a graft using tissue and bone taken from another part of the patient’s body, or with an implant. Most patients with osteosarcoma can be treated with this type of surgery.
Amputation: In some instances, it is not possible to remove the entire tumor in limb-sparing surgery, and therefore amputation may be considered to remove part or all of an arm or leg. The patient may be fitted with a prosthesis after amputation.
Some patients who are undergoing surgery may have radiation therapy first to shrink a tumor to improve the success of the surgery. Radiation therapy is also often used after surgery to try to eliminate any remaining cancerous cells.
Following successful surgery to remove the sarcoma, patients are also given chemotherapy to kill any remaining cancer cells. For soft tissue sarcomas, chemotherapy may be used before or after surgery and radiation. There are several approved chemotherapy options for patients and their oncologists to consider.
Additionally, clinical trials offering the latest treatment combinations and new therapies are available for our patients through Yale Cancer Center, a comprehensive cancer center designated by the National Cancer Institute. Smilow Cancer Hospital and Yale Cancer Center are also members of the Sarcoma Alliance for Research through Collaboration (SARC). SARC is a collaboration of distinguished research institutions throughout the country that work together to design and evaluate clinical trials, with the ultimate goal of ending sarcoma. New trials are available for patients using targeted therapies, kinase inhibitors, and monoclonal antibodies for the treatment of advanced and recurrent sarcomas.