What's New in Uterine Sarcoma Research?

Recent research has improved our understanding of how changes in certain molecules can cause normal cells to become cancer. We know that mutations (damage or defects) in DNA can alter important genes that control cell growth. And if these genes are damaged, uncontrolled growth may lead to cancer. Research on DNA from uterine sarcomas has found many changes in the genes that control cell growth. Specific proteins that are made by genes linked to uterine sarcoma have also been found. Doctors are looking at how they might be useful and are looking for more of them. Researchers expect that discoveries like these will lead to new ways to find, prevent, and treat uterine sarcomas.

Imaging tests to more accurately diagnose uterine sarcomas is an active area of research. Treatment options greatly depend on whether a uterine tumor is cancer or isn't, for instance, it could be a leiomyoma or a fibroid. Knowing this would help know if surgery is needed, and, if so, would allow doctors to use the best type of surgery to remove the tumor. Efforts to improve imaging tests for these rare tumors have also led researchers to look at how these tests might be used to learn more about the tumor, such as whether chemo will be needed after surgery and likely outcomes. PET scans using different tracers are being studied, so are contrast-enhanced MRIs. And researchers are trying to find other factors that, used along with imaging tests, may help point to a uterine sarcoma, such as certain blood tests (LDH level), tumor size, and body weight.

New combinations of chemotherapy drugs, new drugs, and better ways to give chemo are active areas of research. Surgery is the standard treatment, but chemo with or without radiation treatments after surgery may help keep cancer from coming back.

Hormone therapy may help to treat and control some uterine sarcomas. Researchers are trying to find out if drugs that control estrogen might help delay or even prevent these cancers from coming back after surgery. They are also looking at whether the ovaries need to be removed as part of treatment in all women with uterine sarcoma, or is it's safe to leave them, especially in young women with leiomyosarcoma or stage I cancers. 

Doctors are also studying targeted therapies and immunotherapies as treatments for uterine sarcoma. These drugs don't work the same as chemotherapy drugs and may help when chemo doesn't work or uterine sarcoma comes back after treatment.

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 journalists, editors, and translators with extensive experience in medical writing.

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Last Revised: November 13, 2017

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