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Radiother Oncol. 1995 Feb;34(2):93-104.

Regaud Lecture, Granada 1994. Tumors of the connective and supporting tissues.

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  • 1Department of Radiation Oncology, Massachusetts General Hospital, Harvard Medical School, Boston, USA.


There has been a continuous acceleration of medical/scientific inquiry and of actual improvements in management of patients with neoplasms of the mesenchymal tissues over the last four decades. The number of publications in this field has increased from 1140 in 1970 and then to 1700 in 1990. Important advances discussed over this period include: establishment of sarcoma teams in major oncology centers; staging systems for both soft tissue and osseous sarcomas; demonstration of genetic determinants in the development of, at least, some of the sarcomas; the revolutionary change in quality of diagnostic imaging by the introduction of CT and MRI; use of immunohistochemistry in diagnostic pathology; the drastic gains in survival of patients with osteogenic sarcoma, Ewing's sarcoma and rhabdomyosarcoma due to the efficacy of multi-drug and multi-cycle chemotherapy protocols; major advances in surgical techniques which have made limb salvage practical; cell lines derived from human sarcomas have been shown to have in vitro radiation sensitivity comparable to that of cell lines from epithelial tumors; the combination of conservative surgery and moderate doses of radiation yields local control and survival results equivalent to that of radical surgery with a much improved functional and cosmetic outcome; intra-operative electron beam radiation therapy improves the outcome of patients with retroperitoneal sarcomas when given after grossly complete resection combined with external beam radiation therapy (pre- or postoperatively); radiation is a highly effective alternative to extensive surgery for desmoid tumors; local control of giant cell tumors by modern radiation techniques is approximately 80% and the incidence of radiation induced tumors at 10 years is approximately 3%; to decrease the incidence of radiation induced sarcoma, resection has replaced radiation in the management of selected patients with primary Ewing's sarcoma when the response to chemotherapy has been excellent and the morbidity/functional decrement consequent upon the surgery judged reasonable; proton beam radiation therapy has been accepted as being superior to conventional external beam radiation therapy for chondrosarcoma and chordoma of the skull base; and attempts to utilize brachytherapy for sarcomas of the spine/sacrum appear to offer promise. Projected advances in the coming two decades includes:Designation of sarcoma type on genetic characterization; molecular genetics will provide prognostic information as to probability of distant metastasis, response to chemotherapeutic agents and radiation; important further reductions in the radiation treatment volume due to the many technical developments entering, or soon to enter the clinic; non-invasive assessment of the response to chemotherapy; much increased appreciation of the late sequella of treatment, both radiation and chemotherapy.

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