July is Sarcoma and Bone Cancer Awareness Month
join with the aacr to find better ways to prevent and treat sarcoma and bone cancer
Sarcomas are a rare group of cancers in which malignant cells form in the bones or soft tissues of the body.
Soft tissue sarcomas form in cartilage, fat, muscle, blood vessels, tendons, nerves, and around joints. Osteosarcomas develop in bone; liposarcomas form in fat; rhabdomyosarcomas form in muscle; and Ewing sarcomas form in bone and soft tissue.
Bone and joint cancer is most frequently diagnosed among teenagers, while soft tissue cancers typically affect those 55 years or older.
In 2023, approximately 13,400 cases of soft tissue sarcoma and approximately 3,970 cases of bone and joint cancer are expected to be diagnosed in the United States, according to data from the National Cancer Institute’s Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results Program (SEER). Some 5,140 and 2,140 people are expected to die from soft tissue and bone sarcomas, respectively. The five-year survival rate for soft tissue sarcomas is 65.8 percent, while the survival rate is 68.9 percent for bone and joint sarcomas.
Because sarcomas are difficult to distinguish from other cancers when they are found within organs, their incidence is probably underestimated, according to the National Cancer Institute.
Having certain inherited disorders can increase the risk for soft tissue sarcomas, including retinoblastoma, tuberous sclerosis, Werner syndrome, and nevoid basal cell carcinoma syndrome. Other risk factors for soft tissue sarcomas include past treatment with radiation therapy for certain cancers; exposure to certain chemicals, such as thorium dioxide, vinyl chloride, or arsenic; and long-term lymphedema in the arms or legs.
Past treatment with radiation can increase the risk of osteosarcoma and other types of bone cancers. Other risk factors for osteosarcoma include treatment with anticancer drugs called alkylating agents, having a certain change in the retinoblastoma gene, and having certain conditions including Paget disease, Diamond-Blackfan anemia, and Werner syndrome.
One Young Woman’s Story
Alexis Browning of Lexington, Kentucky, was only 24 years old when she was diagnosed with stage IV alveolar soft part sarcoma (ASPS), with an 18-centimeter tumor wrapped around her right femur. After a “miracle procedure” to remove the tumor and relieve her pain, she has been taking atezolizumab to deal with the metastatic disease. She credits “an amazing village of supporters who love me” and help her keep going.
“On days when I just do not have any grace to give, they help me find little moments of comfort and joy in the mundane and in the darkness,” she says. Read her story in the AACR Cancer Progress Report 2023.
The latest on sarcoma and bone cancer
Immunotherapy and targeting of gene expression are among the treatments begin studied for sarcoma. Read more on the AACR blog, Cancer Research Catalyst: Hard-hitting Therapies for Soft Tissue Cancers: New Treatment Approaches for Sarcomas
What the AACR Is Doing in Sarcoma and Bone Cancer Research
Bringing Researchers Together
In May 2022, the American Association for Cancer Research held the AACR Special Conference: Sarcomas. The meeting delved into the advances made in the research and treatment of sarcomas and soft tissue tumors.
The AACR is supporting sarcoma research through these recent fellowships and grants:
- AACR-D-Team Sarcoma Research Fellowship to Rachel Offenbacher, MD, at Children’s Hospital at Montefiore, “Targeting the Tumor Microenvironment to Treat Metastatic Ewing Sarcoma” (2023)
- AACR-D-Team Sarcoma Research Fellowship to Chen Khuan Wong, PhD, Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, “Dissecting MYC-mediated tumorigenesis and plasticity in angiosarcoma” (2023)
- AACR-QuadW Foundation Sarcoma Research Fellowship in Memory of Willie Tichenor to Tiffany C. Eng, PhD, Massachusetts General Hospital, “Identifying drivers of elevated clonality and relapse in rhabdomyosarcoma” (2023)
- AACR-QuadW Foundation Sarcoma Research Fellowship, in Memory of Willie Tichenor, to Emma Wrenn, PhD, Seattle Children’s Hospital, “Targeting mesenchymal cell states in Ewing Sarcoma” (2022)
AACR is also supporting research into bone marrow cancer:
- AACR-MPM Oncology Charitable Foundation Transformative Cancer Research Grant to Xiaotian Zhang PhD, The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston, “Dissect the novel function of mutant NPM1 on transcriptional hijacking” (2022)
Another AACR-QuadW grantee was Jenna M. Gedminas, MD, of Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, who focused on desmoplastic small round cell tumor (DSRCT), a rare and aggressive soft tissue sarcoma. There is currently no standard therapy for this disease, and despite aggressive treatment, the 5-year relative survival rate is less than 15 percent. The grant supported her research on whether the drug lurbinectedin can be effectively used to treat this disease. She published her findings on how the drug blocks a protein called EWS-WT1 in 2022 in the AACR journal Molecular Cancer Therapeutics.
The 2021 AACR-QuadW Foundation Fellowship for Clinical/Translational Sarcoma Research grantee, Rutulkumar Patel, MS, PhD, at the Duke University Medical Center, explored how targeting the metabolism of rhabdomyosarcoma can increase the effectiveness of radiation therapy in this disease.
for more information
For more information on sarcoma in adults, please see our page on soft tissue sarcoma.
For more information on sarcoma in children and adolescents, please see our page on childhood soft tissue sarcoma.