Soft tissue sarcomas have been identified to be of more than 50 types. Most of them have a molecular alteration as which is typical of that type of sarcoma and are used to confirm the diagnosis of sarcoma. For example: Synovial Sarcoma: t(X; 18) (p11.2; q11.2), Alveolar Rhabdomyosarcoma t (2:13) (q13; q14) etc. The choice of treatment depends on the type of sarcoma. The role of chemotherapy currently is there in both curative and advanced cancer settings.
The current role of chemotherapy for patients who have localized disease is not defined well though there is more acceptance of chemotherapy in high-risk sarcomas like large tumours, high grades and chemosensitivehistologies like synovial sarcoma, leiomyosarcoma, etc. Chemotherapy is often considered in combination (ifosfamide+ doxorubicin, docetaxel+ gemcitabine) after surgery in such cases. It may especially be considered in these 2 situations: When the disease is considered to be at high risk of recurrence (i.e. high grade, deep-seated, > 5 cm). In selected cases, preoperative chemotherapy is also given along with radiotherapy to downsize the disease to make it operable. Sometimes hyperthermia with chemotherapy is delivered in certain clinical situations.
Chemotherapy is the mainstay of the treatment of advanced disease, as the drugs administered enter the bloodstream and reach cancer cells throughout the body. These drugs can be given alone or in combination and may be given as an outpatient or as an inpatient with admission to the hospital for a few days. Chemotherapy is given in cycles of treatment and the chemotherapy regimen usually consists of several cycles given over a set period: the number of cycles depends on the type, site and size of sarcoma and how it is responding to the drugs. The most common drug regimen is doxorubicin alone or in combination with Ifosfamide, Docetaxel with Gemcitabine, etc. The common adverse effects are low blood counts, vomiting, alopecia, fatigue and these side effects can be controlled to great extent with proper supportive care medications. In some sarcomas like alveolar soft part sarcoma, and angiogenesis drugs which target VEGF like pazopanib has very good clinical activity and patient attain long term disease control. There are many trials going on in sarcoma treatment as the benefit of chemotherapy is still not optimal.