Most pediatricians see sarcoma once or twice in a career. At Children’s National Hospital, our team of sarcoma specialists has the experience and expertise to improve outcomes for young patients with these tumors.
Pediatric soft tissue sarcomas, which can arise in bone, muscle and connective tissues anywhere in the body, account for just 7% of all childhood tumors. Because these tumors can be aggressive, prompt diagnosis and treatment by an experienced multidisciplinary team is needed to provide the best chance for cure and functional recovery.
“If there is a suspected diagnosis of sarcoma, we prefer referral as early as possible,” says Jeffrey Dome, M.D., Ph.D., Division Chief of Hematology and Oncology at Children’s National. “If the tumor turns out not to be a sarcoma, families are happy to hear that, but if it is sarcoma, at least we have planned everything from the beginning.”
Children’s National has advanced imaging equipment available for diagnosis, staging, treatment, and follow-up for all bone and soft tissue sarcomas in children, adolescents and young adults. In addition, the Children’s National sarcoma program is one of the few in the United States where patients can see a pediatric oncologist, orthopaedic oncologist, biologist and physical therapist in one truly comprehensive visit.
“Prior to each clinic, individual cases are reviewed by the multidisciplinary team,” says AeRang Kim, M.D., Ph.D., pediatric oncologist at Children’s National. “Then, the patient has access to this team of experts where diagnosis, planning and treatment can occur with the patient and family.”
Treatment typically consists of multimodal therapy, which may include chemotherapy, surgery, radiation, and rehabilitation. Patients also have access to the most novel therapies available. As one of the select institutions in the Children’s Oncology Group (COG) consortium, Children’s National has access to COG Phase I and II trials.
One of Dr. Dome’s patients, 16-year-old Alexx, thought the swelling in her leg was attributed to a cheerleading injury, but further investigation revealed osteosarcoma, a type of cancer that manifests in the body's larger bones. Dr. Dome and his team took a nontraditional treatment approach to help her beat cancer.
“The feat to a successful outcome is having great psychosocial support. It’s not enough to deliver the medicine or the chemotherapy, we also have to support the family and the child,” says Dr. Dome. “For us, just having patients survive the cancer is not enough. We want patients to survive with a good quality of life and full functionality.”
Find this article and others in Advancing Pediatrics, quarterly publication.