Targeted Therapy for Soft Tissue Sarcoma

Targeted therapy uses drugs or other substances to identify and attack sarcoma cells while doing little damage to normal cells. These therapies attack parts of cancer cells that make them different from normal, healthy cells. Each type of targeted therapy works differently, but all of them affect the way a cancer cell grows, divides, repairs itself, or interacts with other cells. Targeted therapy is an important part of treatment for many kinds of cancer. As doctors learn more about the biology of sarcoma cells, targeted therapy is becoming another treatment option for this cancer, too.

Olaratumab (Lartruvo®)

This drug is a type of monoclonal antibody , which is a man-made version of an immune system protein. It targets PDGFR-alpha, a protein on cancer cells that can help them grow. By blocking this protein, olaratumab can make some tumors shrink or stop growing. This has been shown to help people live longer.

This drug can be used along with the chemotherapy drug doxorubicin to treat soft tissue sarcomas that can't be cured with radiation therapy or surgery.

Olaratumab is given by infusion into a vein (IV).

Side effects

Some people have allergic-like reactions while getting this drug, which can cause symptoms like low blood pressure, fever, chills, and rash. Less often, reactions can be more serious or even life-threatening.

Other possible side effects of this drug include nausea and vomiting, feeling tired, muscle or joint pain, swelling in the mouth or throat, hair loss, headache, loss of appetite, diarrhea, and nerve damage (neuropathy), which can cause numbness, tingling, or pain in the hands or feet.

Pazopanib (Votrient®)

Pazopanib blocks several cell enzymes called tyrosine kinases that are important for cell growth and survival. It may be used to treat certain advanced soft tissue sarcomas that have not responded to chemotherapy. It can help slow tumor growth and ease side effects in patients with sarcomas that cannot be removed with surgery. So far, though, it's not clear that this drug helps patients live longer.

Pazopanib is taken in pill form, once a day.

Side effects

Common side effects include high blood pressure, fatigue, nausea, diarrhea, headaches, changes in hair color, low blood cell counts, and liver problems. In some patients this drug causes abnormal results on liver function tests, but it rarely leads to severe liver damage that can be life threatening.

Bleeding, clotting, and wound healing problems are rare, but can occur as well. This drug also rarely causes a problem with the heart rhythm or even a heart attack.

If you're taking pazopanib, your doctor will monitor your heart with EKGs and do blood tests to check for liver problems or other changes.

More information about targeted therapy

To learn more about how targeted drugs are used to treat cancer, see Targeted Cancer Therapy.

To learn about some of the side effects listed here and how to manage them, see Managing Cancer-related Side Effects.

The American Cancer Society medical and editorial content team
Our team is made up of doctors and master's-prepared nurses with deep knowledge of cancer care as well as journalists, editors, and translators with extensive experience in medical writing.

Last Medical Review: April 6, 2018 Last Revised: April 6, 2018

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Moroncini G, Maccaroni E, Fiordoliva I, et al. Developments in the management of advanced soft-tissue sarcoma - olaratumab in context. Onco Targets Ther. 2018;11:833-842.

Nakano K, Takahashi S. Current Molecular Targeted Therapies for Bone and Soft Tissue Sarcomas. Int J Mol Sci. 2018;19(3):739.

Novartis Pharmaceuticals Corporation. Votrient (pazopanib): Highlights of Prescribing Information. May 2017. Accessed at https://www.pharma.us.novartis.com/sites/www.pharma.us.novartis.com/files/votrient.pdf on April 2, 2018.

National Comprehensive Cancer Network, Clinical Practice Guidelines in Oncology (NCCN Guidelines®), Soft Tissue Sarcoma, Version 1.2018 -- October 31, 2017. Accessed at www.nccn.org/professionals/physician_gls/pdf/sarcoma.pdf on April 2, 2018.

Novartis Pharmaceuticals Corporation. Votrient (pazopanib): Highlights of Prescribing Information. May 2017. Accessed at https://www.pharma.us.novartis.com/sites/www.pharma.us.novartis.com/files/votrient.pdf on April 2, 2018.