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Adult Soft Tissue Sarcoma Treatment (PDQ®)

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Stage IV 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.

In the setting of lung metastasis, resection of metastatic tumors may be associated with long-term disease-free survival in patients selected for optimal underlying disease biology (i.e., patients with a limited number of metastases and slow tumor growth).[1-3] It is not clear to what degree the favorable outcomes are attributable to the efficacy of surgery or to careful selection of patients based upon factors that are associated with less-virulent disease.[1-3] The value of resection of hepatic metastases is unclear.

As noted in the Treatment Option Overview section above, doxorubicin is the standard systemic therapy in the management of metastatic sarcomas.[4,5] Other drugs that are felt to have clinical activity as single agents are ifosfamide, epirubicin, gemcitabine, and paclitaxel.[6-9] Their clinical activity relative to single-agent doxorubicin is not clear, and they are not known to have superior activity. There is controversy about whether adding drugs to doxorubicin offers clinical benefit beyond what is achieved by doxorubicin as a single agent. For older patients to avoid severe toxicity, sequential use of single agents may be the preferred strategy for palliation.

Standard treatment options

  1. Chemotherapy.
    • Single-agent chemotherapy, with subsequent single agents for disease regrowth.[4-6,8-10] Doxorubicin is generally the first-line agent. Ifosfamide also has substantial single-agent activity.
    • Doxorubicin-based combination chemotherapy. A variety of regimens have been used, but none has been proven to increase overall survival compared to doxorubicin alone.[4,5] There is some evidence that the addition of ifosfamide increases response rates (but not survival). Toxicity is increased with the addition of drugs to doxorubicin. No quality-of-life studies have been reported in comparisons of single-agent therapy versus combination therapy.
  2. Resection of pulmonary lesions may be performed if the primary tumor is under control.[1-3]

Current Clinical Trials

Check for U.S. clinical trials from NCI's list of cancer clinical trials that are now accepting patients with stage IV 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. van Geel AN, Pastorino U, Jauch KW, et al.: Surgical treatment of lung metastases: The European Organization for Research and Treatment of Cancer-Soft Tissue and Bone Sarcoma Group study of 255 patients. Cancer 77 (4): 675-82, 1996. [PUBMED Abstract]
  2. Casson AG, Putnam JB, Natarajan G, et al.: Five-year survival after pulmonary metastasectomy for adult soft tissue sarcoma. Cancer 69 (3): 662-8, 1992. [PUBMED Abstract]
  3. Putnam JB Jr, Roth JA: Surgical treatment for pulmonary metastases from sarcoma. Hematol Oncol Clin North Am 9 (4): 869-87, 1995. [PUBMED Abstract]
  4. Bramwell VH, Anderson D, Charette ML, et al.: Doxorubicin-based chemotherapy for the palliative treatment of adult patients with locally advanced or metastatic soft tissue sarcoma. Cochrane Database Syst Rev (3): CD003293, 2003. [PUBMED Abstract]
  5. Verma S, Younus J, Stys-Norman D, et al.: Meta-analysis of ifosfamide-based combination chemotherapy in advanced soft tissue sarcoma. Cancer Treat Rev 34 (4): 339-47, 2008. [PUBMED Abstract]
  6. Lorigan P, Verweij J, Papai Z, et al.: Phase III trial of two investigational schedules of ifosfamide compared with standard-dose doxorubicin in advanced or metastatic soft tissue sarcoma: a European Organisation for Research and Treatment of Cancer Soft Tissue and Bone Sarcoma Group Study. J Clin Oncol 25 (21): 3144-50, 2007. [PUBMED Abstract]
  7. Nielsen OS, Dombernowsky P, Mouridsen H, et al.: High-dose epirubicin is not an alternative to standard-dose doxorubicin in the treatment of advanced soft tissue sarcomas. A study of the EORTC soft tissue and bone sarcoma group. Br J Cancer 78 (12): 1634-9, 1998. [PUBMED Abstract]
  8. Maki RG, Wathen JK, Patel SR, et al.: Randomized phase II study of gemcitabine and docetaxel compared with gemcitabine alone in patients with metastatic soft tissue sarcomas: results of sarcoma alliance for research through collaboration study 002 [corrected]. J Clin Oncol 25 (19): 2755-63, 2007. [PUBMED Abstract]
  9. Okuno S, Ryan LM, Edmonson JH, et al.: Phase II trial of gemcitabine in patients with advanced sarcomas (E1797): a trial of the Eastern Cooperative Oncology Group. Cancer 97 (8): 1969-73, 2003. [PUBMED Abstract]
  10. Grenader T, Goldberg A, Hadas-Halperin I, et al.: Long-term response to pegylated liposomal doxorubicin in patients with metastatic soft tissue sarcomas. Anticancer Drugs 20 (1): 15-20, 2009. [PUBMED Abstract]
  • Updated: January 9, 2015