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What's New in Soft Tissue Sarcoma Research?

Research is ongoing in the area of soft tissue sarcomas . Because soft tissue sarcomas are rare and there are so many different types, it's has been hard to study it well. Still, scientists are learning more about causes and genetic differences in types of sarcomas, and they're looking for ways to improve treatments.

Basic research

Scientists have made progress in understanding how certain gene changes in soft tissue cells cause sarcomas to develop. This information is already being used in new tests to diagnose and classify sarcomas. This is important because knowing the exact type of sarcoma will help doctors select treatment tailored for each person. It's hoped that this information will also lead to new ways to treat these cancers, based on specific differences between normal and cancer soft tissue cells.


Classification of most cancers, including sarcomas, is based mostly on the way they look under a microscope. Recent research has shown that several different kinds of soft tissue sarcomas can look a lot alike under the microscope. By using new tests, researchers have found that most cancers that used to be called malignant fibrous histiocytoma (MFH) are actually high-grade forms of liposarcoma, rhabdomyosarcoma, leiomyosarcoma, other sarcomas, and even carcinomas or lymphomas. Tests to clearly classify the many types of soft tissue sarcoma are another key to deciding on the best treatment for each person.


Researchers are looking for new and better ways to combine treatments, for example, using surgery, radiation, and chemo together, as well as new ways to treat soft tissue sarcomas.


Doctors are looking at the best way to use radiation treatment. Studies are comparing radiation use before vs. after surgery to find out which has a greater impact on wound healing and long-term side effects. They're also looking at different types , doses, and schedules for radiation in an effort to find better and safer ways to use this treatment. Research is also being done to figure out when radiation is needed after surgery and when it's not.


Active research in chemotherapy for soft tissue sarcomas includes studies of new drugs and new ways to give the drugs that are available.

Targeted therapy

There's a lot of active research on the use of targeted drugs. These drugs specifically block substances in or on cancer cells that cause the cancers to grow. Targeted treatments are used for many kinds of cancer and doctors are trying to find out if they might also be helpful against sarcomas.

Anti-angiogenesis drugs

Drugs that block new blood vessel formation may help kill sarcomas by keeping them from being fed by blood vessels. These drugs are being tested in many studies.

Other treatments

Many other treatments are being tested and are only available in clinical trials. Examples include vaccine treatments and T-cell therapies for people with advanced soft tissue sarcomas. The use of heat (hyperthermia) and cold (cryosurgery) to destroy tumors is also being explored. Most of these studies are in very early stages, and it will be awhile before doctors know that they work well enough to be part of regular treatment for soft tissue sarcoma.

The American Cancer Society medical and editorial content team

Our team is made up of doctors and oncology certified nurses with deep knowledge of cancer care as well as editors and translators with extensive experience in medical writing.

Fiore M, Ford S, Callegaro D, et al. Adequate Local Control in High-Risk Soft Tissue Sarcoma of the Extremity Treated with Surgery Alone at a Reference Centre: Should Radiotherapy Still be a Standard? Ann Surg Oncol. 2018 Feb 22.

Last Revised: April 6, 2018

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