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July: Sarcoma awareness month

News publiée le 12/07/2022

July: Sarcoma awareness month

On the occasion of sarcoma awareness month, the Jules Bordet Institute is taking a look at the specific characteristics of these rare tumours that affect nearly 600 people a year in Belgium.   


Sarcoma: a rare tumour that affects the bones or tissue  
Sarcomas are rare tumours that develop in the bones and in the conjunctive tissue that supports other body tissue such as the muscles or tendons.  There are dozens of types of sarcomas but they can be classed into two major categories:  soft tissue sarcomas, which are the most common, and bone sarcomas.  Soft tissue sarcomas are found principally in adults. Some bone sarcomas, such as osteosarcomas or Ewing's sarcomas, affect principally children and adolescents, while others such as chondrosarcoma affect principally adults. In Belgium, about 600 new cases of sarcomas are reported annually. About 85% of these are soft tissue sarcomas.  

Diagnosis and treatment
Although sarcomas occur mainly in the limbs and trunk, they may also occur in the stomach, abdomen or reproductive organs. The key symptom of a sarcoma is the development of an often painless mass that increases in volume, sometimes rapidly and sometimes more slowly. The earlier a sarcoma is detected the greater the chances of a cure.    

The cornerstone of sarcoma treatment is to effect a radical surgical resection of the tumour. After the surgical resection it is often necessary to effect a bone reconstruction through a bone graft, a composite graft or a prosthesis. Soft tissues are reconstructed using a muscular flap. This surgery may be combined with other treatment such as radiotherapy or, more rarely, chemotherapy. 

Multidisciplinary approach
Treating sarcomas requires the experience and expertise of a dedicated multidisciplinary team of the kind that is found within the Brussels University Hospital (H.U.B.), a grouping of the Jules Bordet Institute, the Queen Fabiola Children's Hospital and the Erasmus Hospital. Every week, surgeons, radiotherapists, radiologists, oncologists, nuclear medical scientists and anatomical pathologists come together to define a treatment and personalised follow up for each patient. 

Research prospects
Given the rarity and variety of these tumours, research in this field is extremely complex. However, thanks to ongoing research progress, new targeted therapies are currently being developed that are promising for the future. The Jules Bordet Institute is a member of the Belgian Sarcoma Group that is engaged in research into these diseases. Thanks to new digital technologies and 3D printing, considerable progress has been made in the precision of surgical resections and reconstructions. This progress has made it possible to increase the chances of saving a limb while limiting loss of function for the patient.