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Int J Radiat Oncol Biol Phys. 1986 Nov;12(11):1923-9.

Extremity preservation by combined modality treatment of sarcomas of the hand and wrist.


Soft tissue sarcomas are uncommon malignancies, less than 10% of which arise on the distal upper extremities. Consequently, experience with treatments which preserve both the limb and its function is lacking for tumors in this region. Sixteen patients with sarcomas arising in the hand and wrist and one with an aggressive desmoid tumor were treated by combined modality therapy at the Massachusetts General Hospital. Two patients had wide resections for multiple recurrent lesions, 5 had excisional biopsies, and 9 had incomplete excisions to preserve anatomic structures of the hand. One patient refused an amputation and had no surgery. Sarcoma patients were given postoperative radiation with a dose range of 50.2 to 69 Gy (median 68 Gy). The desmoid tumor received 44 Gy. A shrinking field technique with customized castings and cerrobend blocks was used to assure precision and minimize treatment volumes. Chemotherapy was reserved for metastatic disease. Local control was achieved in 14 patients who received combined modality treatment (87%), with a follow-up 1-12 years (median 33 months). Two of the three patients with local failures subsequently obtained a local control after salvage surgery and radiation. Four patients developed metastases, one with epitrochlear lymph node metastases was salvaged by amputation, the others died with lung disease 17, 37, and 111 months after treatment. Functional integrity of the limb was primarily dependent on the extent of surgical resection required. Among 12 patients with local and distant control, one patient (who had multiple wide resections of an extensive desmoid tumor preceding irradiation) lost over 50% use of her limb, but no patients required amputation for edema or pain control. Ten of the 12 patients with local and distant control had less than a 25% decrement in limb function and had no pain or edema associated with normal use of their hand. We conclude that for selected patients with sarcomas of the distal upper extremity, combined modality therapy consisting of conservative resection and careful radiation therapy is a viable alternative to amputation.

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