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Adult Soft Tissue Sarcoma Treatment (PDQ®)

Health Professional Version

Stage II and Node-Negative Stage III Adult Soft Tissue Sarcoma

Refer to the Treatment Option Overview section of this summary for a more detailed discussion of the roles of surgery, radiation therapy, and chemotherapy.

High-grade localized soft tissue sarcomas have an increased potential for local recurrence and metastasis. For sarcomas of the extremities, local control comparable to that obtained with amputation may be achieved with limb-sparing surgery that involves wide local excision in combination with preoperative radiation therapy (preRX) or postoperative radiation therapy (PORT).

Complete surgical resection is often difficult for sarcomas of the retroperitoneum because of their large size before detection and anatomical location.[1,2] As opposed to soft tissue sarcomas of the extremities, local recurrence is the most common cause of death in patients with retroperitoneal soft tissue sarcomas. Complete surgical resection (i.e., removal of the entire gross tumor) is the most important factor in preventing local recurrence and, in many instances, requires resection of adjacent viscera.

Standard treatment options:

  1. Surgical excision with preRX or PORT. Radiation decreases the risk of local recurrence but has not been shown to increase overall survival.[3-7]
  2. Surgical excision with negative tissue margins in all directions. This approach is generally restricted to low-grade tumors ( ≤5 cm in diameter) of the extremities or superficial trunk with microscopically negative surgical tumor margins.[8-12]
  3. If the tumor is unresectable, high-dose radiation therapy may be used, but poor local control is likely to result.[13]
  4. In some situations, radiation therapy and/or chemotherapy may be used prior to surgery in an attempt to convert a marginally resectable tumor to one that can be adequately resected with limb preservation; this treatment may be followed by PORT.

Current Clinical Trials

Check for U.S. clinical trials from NCI's list of cancer clinical trials that are now accepting patients with stage II adult soft tissue sarcoma and stage III adult soft tissue sarcoma. The list of clinical trials can be further narrowed by location, drug, intervention, and other criteria.

General information about clinical trials is also available from the NCI Web site.


  1. Heslin MJ, Lewis JJ, Nadler E, et al.: Prognostic factors associated with long-term survival for retroperitoneal sarcoma: implications for management. J Clin Oncol 15 (8): 2832-9, 1997. [PUBMED Abstract]
  2. Jaques DP, Coit DG, Hajdu SI, et al.: Management of primary and recurrent soft-tissue sarcoma of the retroperitoneum. Ann Surg 212 (1): 51-9, 1990. [PUBMED Abstract]
  3. Yang JC, Chang AE, Baker AR, et al.: Randomized prospective study of the benefit of adjuvant radiation therapy in the treatment of soft tissue sarcomas of the extremity. J Clin Oncol 16 (1): 197-203, 1998. [PUBMED Abstract]
  4. Rosenberg SA, Tepper J, Glatstein E, et al.: The treatment of soft-tissue sarcomas of the extremities: prospective randomized evaluations of (1) limb-sparing surgery plus radiation therapy compared with amputation and (2) the role of adjuvant chemotherapy. Ann Surg 196 (3): 305-15, 1982. [PUBMED Abstract]
  5. O'Sullivan B, Davis AM, Turcotte R, et al.: Preoperative versus postoperative radiotherapy in soft-tissue sarcoma of the limbs: a randomised trial. Lancet 359 (9325): 2235-41, 2002. [PUBMED Abstract]
  6. O'Sullivan B, Davis A, Turcotte R, et al.: Five-year results of a randomized phase III trial of pre-operative vs post-operative radiotherapy in extremity soft tissue sarcoma. [Abstract] J Clin Oncol 22 (Suppl 14): A-9007, 819s, 2004.
  7. Davis AM, O'Sullivan B, Turcotte R, et al.: Late radiation morbidity following randomization to preoperative versus postoperative radiotherapy in extremity soft tissue sarcoma. Radiother Oncol 75 (1): 48-53, 2005. [PUBMED Abstract]
  8. Al-Refaie WB, Habermann EB, Jensen EH, et al.: Surgery alone is adequate treatment for early stage soft tissue sarcoma of the extremity. Br J Surg 97 (5): 707-13, 2010. [PUBMED Abstract]
  9. Pisters PW, Pollock RE, Lewis VO, et al.: Long-term results of prospective trial of surgery alone with selective use of radiation for patients with T1 extremity and trunk soft tissue sarcomas. Ann Surg 246 (4): 675-81; discussion 681-2, 2007. [PUBMED Abstract]
  10. Fabrizio PL, Stafford SL, Pritchard DJ: Extremity soft-tissue sarcomas selectively treated with surgery alone. Int J Radiat Oncol Biol Phys 48 (1): 227-32, 2000. [PUBMED Abstract]
  11. Rydholm A, Gustafson P, Rööser B, et al.: Limb-sparing surgery without radiotherapy based on anatomic location of soft tissue sarcoma. J Clin Oncol 9 (10): 1757-65, 1991. [PUBMED Abstract]
  12. Rydholm A: Surgery without radiotherapy in soft tissue sarcoma. Acta Orthop Scand Suppl 273: 117-9, 1997. [PUBMED Abstract]
  13. Kepka L, DeLaney TF, Suit HD, et al.: Results of radiation therapy for unresected soft-tissue sarcomas. Int J Radiat Oncol Biol Phys 63 (3): 852-9, 2005. [PUBMED Abstract]
  • Updated: January 9, 2015