Jul 03, 2017 1:00 PM

physician sitting in front of computer looking at imaging
New imaging techniques can improve care for sarcoma patients.

Updated October 2018

Although sarcomas make up a small percentage of adult cancers and about 15 percent of childhood cancers, they are anything but small to the families they affect. The sarcoma program at Huntsman Cancer Institute (HCI) is dedicated to finding better treatments and a cure for these cancers of the body’s connective tissues, bone, and muscles.

“Sarcomas not only threaten the lives of patients, but they can also adversely impact their quality of life,” says Jeffrey T. Yap, PhD, who leads the sarcoma research program. “We must develop better treatments but we must also look at the quality-of-life issues that patients face once they have completed therapy. Our team looks at all aspects of treatment and care for sarcoma patients, young and old. Our research mission is to improve outcomes in all aspects of life for those facing sarcoma.”

Current HCI sarcoma research may lead to better treatments, better quality of life, and an increased chance of survival for these patients.

An Exciting New Drug for Ewing Sarcoma

In order to create more effective drug treatments, HCI researchers and clinicians study specific sarcoma types at a molecular level. Ewing sarcoma, for example, is driven by a change in DNA that results in the production of a protein called EWS/FLI. This protein has been shown to turn off genes that help prevent cancerous cells from forming or spreading. Although scientists have not yet been able to directly stop EWS/FLI from destroying those genes, HCI researchers found a drug that interferes with LSD1, an enzyme that helps EWS/FLI work. The LSD1 inhibitor drug turns off the function of EWS/FLI and stops the cancer cells from spreading. The drug is now being tested in a clinical trial.

Personalized Treatment for Each Person’s Cancer

Another groundbreaking research project involves implanting human tumor tissue in mice to test which treatments work best for each patient’s cancer. The tumors that grow in the mouse tend to act like human tumors, sometimes even spreading to the same areas of the body. The mouse then becomes a model for finding which treatment works best.

Improving Diagnosis to Improve Treatments

The sarcoma team is looking at new imaging techniques to better serve cancer patients. By comparing MRI images to the results from pathological analysis of tumors, scientists can improve MRI imaging measurements so tumors can be better identified. With a better understanding of the sarcoma, doctors can provide better care.

Supporting Young Adults with Sarcoma

The sarcoma team also collaborates with patients to improve understanding of how sarcomas affect survivors, particularly children and young adults, later in life. The Huntsman-Intermountain Adolescent and Young Adult (HI-AYA) patient navigation program guides 15 to 39-year-old patients, survivors, and their families through the cancer journey and provides information and resources specifically for young adults with cancer. Patients can also join the HCI Sarcoma Services Facebook group to connect with other patients and the sarcoma team.

Learn more about sarcoma.

Sarcoma HI-AYA AYA cancer cancer care cancer research

Cancer touches all of us.

Share Your Story