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Ewing Sarcoma Treatment (PDQ®)

Ewing Sarcoma: Recurrent Tumors

Recurrence of Ewing sarcoma is most common within 2 years of initial diagnosis (approximately 80%).[1,2] However, late relapses occurring more than 5 years from initial diagnosis are more common in Ewing sarcoma (13%; 95% confidence interval, 9.4–16.5) than in other pediatric solid tumors.[3] The overall prognosis for patients with recurrent Ewing sarcoma is poor; 5-year survival after recurrence is approximately 10% to 15%.[2,4,5]; [1][Level of evidence: 3iiA] Time to recurrence is the most important prognostic factor. Patients whose Ewing saroma recurred more than 2 years from initial diagnosis had a 5-year survival of 30% versus 7% for patients whose Ewing sarcoma recurred within 2 years.[1,2] Patients with both local recurrence and distant metastases have a worse outcome than patients with either isolated local recurrence or metastatic recurrence alone.[1,2] Isolated pulmonary recurrence was not an important prognostic factor in a North American series.[1] In the Italian/Scandinavian experience, younger age, longer disease-free interval, and lung-only recurrence were associated with longer progression-free survival after recurrence. In this experience, patients with Ewing sarcoma that recurred after initial therapy, which included high-dose therapy with autologous stem cell rescue, were less likely to achieve a second complete remission.[6][Level of evidence: 3iiDiii]

Standard Treatment Options

The selection of treatment for patients with recurrent disease depends on many factors, including the site of recurrence and prior treatment, as well as individual patient considerations. Combinations of chemotherapy, such as cyclophosphamide and topotecan or irinotecan and temozolomide with or without vincristine, are active in recurrent Ewing sarcoma and can be considered for these patients.[7-12] There is no standardized second-line treatment for relapsed or refractory Ewing sarcoma. One phase II study of topotecan and cyclophosphamide showed a response in 6 of 17 patients with Ewing sarcoma; 16 of 49 patients had a clinical response in a similar trial from Germany.[7,9] In one retrospective series, 20 patients received temozolomide and irinotecan after recurrence. Five patients achieved a complete response and seven patients achieved a partial response.[11] The combination of gemcitabine and docetaxel has achieved objective responses in relapsed Ewing sarcoma.[13][Level of evidence: 3iiA]; [14][Level of evidence: 3iiiDiv] High-dose ifosfamide (3 g/m2/day for 5 days = 15 g/m2) has shown activity in patients whose Ewing sarcoma recurred after therapy which included standard ifosfamide (1.8 g/m2/day for 5 days = 9 g/m2).[15][Level of evidence: 3iiiDiv]

Aggressive attempts to control the disease, including myeloablative regimens, have been used, but there is no evidence at this time to conclude that myeloablative therapy is superior to standard chemotherapy.[16,17]; [18][Level of evidence: 3iiA]; [19][Level of evidence: 3iiiDiii] Most published reports about the use of high-dose therapy and stem cell support for patients with high-risk Ewing sarcoma have significant flaws in methodology. The most common error is the comparison of this high-risk group with an inappropriate control group. Patients with Ewing sarcoma at high risk of treatment failure who received high-dose therapy are compared with patients who did not receive high-dose therapy. Patients who undergo high-dose therapy must respond to systemic therapy, remain alive and respond to treatment long enough to reach the time at which stem cell therapy can be applied, be free of comorbid toxicity that precludes high-dose therapy, and have an adequate stem cell collection. Patients who undergo high-dose therapy and stem cell support are a highly selected group; comparing this patient group with all patients with high-risk Ewing sarcoma is inappropriate and leads to the erroneous conclusion that this strategy improves outcome. Surveys of patients undergoing allogeneic stem cell transplantation for recurrent Ewing sarcoma did not show improved event-free survival when compared with autologous stem cell transplantation and was associated with a higher complication rate.[16,20,21]

Monoclonal antibodies against the insulin-like growth factor 1 receptor (IGF1R) are reported to produce objective responses in metastatic recurrent Ewing sarcoma in roughly 10% of cases.[22-25][Level of evidence: 3iiDiv] In these studies, it was suggested that time-to-progression was prolonged compared with historical controls. A phase I trial of IGF1R antibodies combined with the mTOR inhibitor temsirolimus achieved two complete responses and three minor responses among 17 patients with metastatic recurrent Ewing sarcoma.[26] Further studies are needed to identify patients who are likely to benefit from IGF1R therapy.

Radiation therapy to bone lesions may provide palliation, although radical resection may improve outcome.[2] Patients with pulmonary metastases who have not received radiation therapy to the lungs should be considered for whole-lung irradiation.[27] Residual disease in the lung may be surgically removed.

Current Clinical Trials

Check for U.S. clinical trials from NCI's list of cancer clinical trials that are now accepting patients with recurrent Ewing sarcoma/peripheral primitive neuroectodermal tumor. 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. Leavey PJ, Mascarenhas L, Marina N, et al.: Prognostic factors for patients with Ewing sarcoma (EWS) at first recurrence following multi-modality therapy: A report from the Children's Oncology Group. Pediatr Blood Cancer 51 (3): 334-8, 2008. [PUBMED Abstract]
  2. Stahl M, Ranft A, Paulussen M, et al.: Risk of recurrence and survival after relapse in patients with Ewing sarcoma. Pediatr Blood Cancer 57 (4): 549-53, 2011. [PUBMED Abstract]
  3. Wasilewski-Masker K, Liu Q, Yasui Y, et al.: Late recurrence in pediatric cancer: a report from the Childhood Cancer Survivor Study. J Natl Cancer Inst 101 (24): 1709-20, 2009. [PUBMED Abstract]
  4. Barker LM, Pendergrass TW, Sanders JE, et al.: Survival after recurrence of Ewing's sarcoma family of tumors. J Clin Oncol 23 (19): 4354-62, 2005. [PUBMED Abstract]
  5. Bacci G, Longhi A, Ferrari S, et al.: Pattern of relapse in 290 patients with nonmetastatic Ewing's sarcoma family tumors treated at a single institution with adjuvant and neoadjuvant chemotherapy between 1972 and 1999. Eur J Surg Oncol 32 (9): 974-9, 2006. [PUBMED Abstract]
  6. Ferrari S, Luksch R, Hall KS, et al.: Post-relapse survival in patients with Ewing sarcoma. Pediatr Blood Cancer : , 2015. [PUBMED Abstract]
  7. Saylors RL 3rd, Stine KC, Sullivan J, et al.: Cyclophosphamide plus topotecan in children with recurrent or refractory solid tumors: a Pediatric Oncology Group phase II study. J Clin Oncol 19 (15): 3463-9, 2001. [PUBMED Abstract]
  8. McTiernan A, Driver D, Michelagnoli MP, et al.: High dose chemotherapy with bone marrow or peripheral stem cell rescue is an effective treatment option for patients with relapsed or progressive Ewing's sarcoma family of tumours. Ann Oncol 17 (8): 1301-5, 2006. [PUBMED Abstract]
  9. Hunold A, Weddeling N, Paulussen M, et al.: Topotecan and cyclophosphamide in patients with refractory or relapsed Ewing tumors. Pediatr Blood Cancer 47 (6): 795-800, 2006. [PUBMED Abstract]
  10. Wagner LM, McAllister N, Goldsby RE, et al.: Temozolomide and intravenous irinotecan for treatment of advanced Ewing sarcoma. Pediatr Blood Cancer 48 (2): 132-9, 2007. [PUBMED Abstract]
  11. Casey DA, Wexler LH, Merchant MS, et al.: Irinotecan and temozolomide for Ewing sarcoma: the Memorial Sloan-Kettering experience. Pediatr Blood Cancer 53 (6): 1029-34, 2009. [PUBMED Abstract]
  12. Raciborska A, Bilska K, Drabko K, et al.: Vincristine, irinotecan, and temozolomide in patients with relapsed and refractory Ewing sarcoma. Pediatr Blood Cancer 60 (10): 1621-5, 2013. [PUBMED Abstract]
  13. Fox E, Patel S, Wathen JK, et al.: Phase II study of sequential gemcitabine followed by docetaxel for recurrent Ewing sarcoma, osteosarcoma, or unresectable or locally recurrent chondrosarcoma: results of Sarcoma Alliance for Research Through Collaboration Study 003. Oncologist 17 (3): 321, 2012. [PUBMED Abstract]
  14. Mora J, Cruz CO, Parareda A, et al.: Treatment of relapsed/refractory pediatric sarcomas with gemcitabine and docetaxel. J Pediatr Hematol Oncol 31 (10): 723-9, 2009. [PUBMED Abstract]
  15. Ferrari S, del Prever AB, Palmerini E, et al.: Response to high-dose ifosfamide in patients with advanced/recurrent Ewing sarcoma. Pediatr Blood Cancer 52 (5): 581-4, 2009. [PUBMED Abstract]
  16. Burdach S, van Kaick B, Laws HJ, et al.: Allogeneic and autologous stem-cell transplantation in advanced Ewing tumors. An update after long-term follow-up from two centers of the European Intergroup study EICESS. Stem-Cell Transplant Programs at Düsseldorf University Medical Center, Germany and St. Anna Kinderspital, Vienna, Austria. Ann Oncol 11 (11): 1451-62, 2000. [PUBMED Abstract]
  17. Burdach S, Meyer-Bahlburg A, Laws HJ, et al.: High-dose therapy for patients with primary multifocal and early relapsed Ewing's tumors: results of two consecutive regimens assessing the role of total-body irradiation. J Clin Oncol 21 (16): 3072-8, 2003. [PUBMED Abstract]
  18. Rasper M, Jabar S, Ranft A, et al.: The value of high-dose chemotherapy in patients with first relapsed Ewing sarcoma. Pediatr Blood Cancer 61 (8): 1382-6, 2014. [PUBMED Abstract]
  19. Gardner SL, Carreras J, Boudreau C, et al.: Myeloablative therapy with autologous stem cell rescue for patients with Ewing sarcoma. Bone Marrow Transplant 41 (10): 867-72, 2008. [PUBMED Abstract]
  20. Gilman AL, Oesterheld J: Myeloablative chemotherapy with autologous stem cell rescue for Ewing sarcoma. Bone Marrow Transplant 42 (11): 761; author reply 763, 2008. [PUBMED Abstract]
  21. Eapen M: Response to Dr Gilman. Bone Marrow Transplant 42 (11): 763, 2008.
  22. Malempati S, Weigel B, Ingle AM, et al.: Phase I/II trial and pharmacokinetic study of cixutumumab in pediatric patients with refractory solid tumors and Ewing sarcoma: a report from the Children's Oncology Group. J Clin Oncol 30 (3): 256-62, 2012. [PUBMED Abstract]
  23. Juergens H, Daw NC, Geoerger B, et al.: Preliminary efficacy of the anti-insulin-like growth factor type 1 receptor antibody figitumumab in patients with refractory Ewing sarcoma. J Clin Oncol 29 (34): 4534-40, 2011. [PUBMED Abstract]
  24. Pappo AS, Patel SR, Crowley J, et al.: R1507, a monoclonal antibody to the insulin-like growth factor 1 receptor, in patients with recurrent or refractory Ewing sarcoma family of tumors: results of a phase II Sarcoma Alliance for Research through Collaboration study. J Clin Oncol 29 (34): 4541-7, 2011. [PUBMED Abstract]
  25. Tap WD, Demetri G, Barnette P, et al.: Phase II study of ganitumab, a fully human anti-type-1 insulin-like growth factor receptor antibody, in patients with metastatic Ewing family tumors or desmoplastic small round cell tumors. J Clin Oncol 30 (15): 1849-56, 2012. [PUBMED Abstract]
  26. Naing A, LoRusso P, Fu S, et al.: Insulin growth factor-receptor (IGF-1R) antibody cixutumumab combined with the mTOR inhibitor temsirolimus in patients with refractory Ewing's sarcoma family tumors. Clin Cancer Res 18 (9): 2625-31, 2012. [PUBMED Abstract]
  27. Rodriguez-Galindo C, Billups CA, Kun LE, et al.: Survival after recurrence of Ewing tumors: the St Jude Children's Research Hospital experience, 1979-1999. Cancer 94 (2): 561-9, 2002. [PUBMED Abstract]
  • Updated: April 3, 2015