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Sarcoma Treatment for International Patients

Mass General Brigham is home to one of the largest and most experienced sarcoma treatment programs in the United States. Our multidisciplinary team of sarcoma experts has extensive experience in diagnosing and managing all 55 sarcoma subtypes, utilizing complex surgeries, clinical trials of state-of-the-art therapies, and combination modality treatments that use surgery, systemic therapies, radiation, and cryoablation. In addition, we are one of just a few hospitals in the United States offering proton beam therapy to treat sarcoma.

MRI scans showing a sarcoma of the knee

Expertise in diagnosing sarcoma type

Sarcoma comprises a group of rare cancers that form in the soft tissues or bones.   

About 80 percent of sarcomas start in the soft tissues, such as muscle, tendon, fat, blood vessels or nerves. Common soft tissue sarcomas include:  

  • Leiomyosarcoma, which grows in the smooth muscles   
  • Liposarcoma, which develops in the fatty tissue  
  • Rhabdomyosarcoma, which most often affects children but can occur in adults  
  • Undifferentiated pleomorphic sarcoma (UPS), which usually begins in the soft tissue but may also form in the bone 

Bone sarcoma comprises about 20 percent of sarcomas. The most common types of bone sarcoma include:  

  • Osteosarcoma, which can occur in any bone in the body. 
  • Chondrosarcoma, which originate from cartilage  
  • Ewing sarcoma, which may also begin in the soft tissue 
  • Chordoma, which occurs in bones at the base of the skull and spine 

Following a physical examination to ask questions and discuss your symptoms, your primary care doctor may refer you for testing to look for sarcoma.  

Biopsy, in which a tissue sample is taken from the bone marrow and analyzed for cancer cells, may be helpful in detecting bone sarcoma. The pathologists at Mass General Brigham are world expert at diagnosing sarcomas, and they will work closely with our radiologists, orthopedic oncology surgeons, spine surgeons and surgical oncologists to develop your treatment plan.  

Depending on the sarcoma subtype, advanced imaging technologies like these may play a role in diagnosis:  

  • Computed tomography (CT) 
  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) 
  • Bone scans 
  • Positron emission tomography (PET) 
  • PET/CT (combination PET and CT performed simultaneously) 

A comprehensive range of sarcoma treatment options 

If you are diagnosed with sarcoma, your care team at Mass General Brigham will work with you and family members to create a personalized treatment plan. Sarcomas are complex diseases, so we assemble experts from a wide range of disciplines to give you the best chance at a successful outcome.  

At Mass General Brigham, you will find all the most technically sophisticated sarcoma treatment options available today. Depending on the sarcoma subtype and your personal preferences, your care team may recommend one or more of the following approaches.

In surgery for sarcoma, your surgeon removes the sarcoma as is safely possible. Our surgeons are skilled in the most advanced techniques for sarcoma surgery, including computed-navigated surgery. In addition, our surgeons are leaders in complex reconstructions, using a variety of implants and transplants to optimize limb function.  

After surgery, some patients return to Mass General Brigham periodically for follow-up imaging to watch out for a recurrence of sarcoma. Other patients receive follow-up care closer to home, in which case we will coordinate care with your local doctor. 

Chemotherapy uses drugs (given intravenously or orally) to destroy cancer cells. We offer all major chemotherapeutic agents, including angiogenesis inhibitors and molecularly targeted agents, to treat all subtypes of sarcoma. We participate in all of the most exciting clinical trials that develop new agents to treat sarcomas. 

Radiation therapy uses high-energy beams, such as X-rays, to shrink or kill cancer cells without damaging healthy normal cells nearby. 

Proton beam therapy is an advanced form of radiation treatment that uses a high-energy, focused proton beam to target tumors with incredible precision. Compared with the use of X-ray beams, proton beam therapy reduces side effects because less radiation goes into normal surrounding tissue. It also enables a greater concentration of radiation to focus on the desired target, which may improve tumor control and the chance of a cure.  

Mass General Brigham is home to the only proton therapy center in the northeastern United States, and we are just one of only a few hospitals in the entire United States offering proton beam to treat sarcoma. Our doctors bring unparalleled experience in treating cancer with this approach. In fact, we were the world's first center to leverage high-energy protons for medical care.

Other advanced radiation therapies available at Mass General Brigham include:  

  • Brachytherapy, which uses radiotherapy implants at tumor margins to enhance tumor destruction 
  • Intraoperative radiation therapy (IORT), a novel technique to deliver additional radiation during surgery to sites where the proximity of critical normal tissue prevents surgeons from removing as much tissue around the tumor as they would like 
  • Combination chemoradiation, an integrated program that combines chemotherapy with radiation, which may improve outcomes for patients with high-risk soft tissue sarcomas

Immunotherapy harnesses the power of your own immune system to find and attack cancer cells. CAR T-cell therapy is a form of immunotherapy that involves engineering T-cells (a type of white blood cells) for this purpose. It is one of the newest, most promising treatments for sarcoma — and one of the many state-of-the-art cancer therapies available at Mass General Brigham.

Learn more about CAR T-cell therapy

A team of sarcoma experts behind you

Meet Edwin Choy, MD, sarcoma physician at Mass General Brigham

Edwin Choy, MD, sarcoma physician at Mass General Brigham and Associate Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School, leads our novel approaches and expertise in caring for bone cancer and sarcoma patients. Dr. Choy discusses the Mass General Brigham difference for patients.  

Our laboratory researchers are also developing novel strategies to reverse drug resistance in sarcoma, supported in part by our world-renowned archive of sarcoma tissue and associated clinical information. Results are being used to design new clinical trials. 

Sarcoma clinical trials 

Mass General Brigham regularly hosts clinical trials studying investigational medications and other emerging sarcoma therapies. Ongoing trials are focusing on innovations such as CAR T-cell therapy, which is playing a growing role in cancer treatment.   

Sarcoma care for international patients 

Each year, thousands of patients from more than 120 countries travel to Mass General Brigham for medical care, second opinions and treatments unavailable anywhere else in the world.  

Mass General Brigham is experienced in caring for sarcoma patients who are traveling great distances to our hospitals in Boston. Your cancer team here and our international patient services team will help you prepare for and plan the appropriate amount of time to stay in Boston for your appointments, treatments and any recovery time. During this recovery time in Boston or back home in your country, our clinical team will monitor your well-being and progressions to continuously optimize your treatment plan and symptoms. 

Our international patients often have questions about everything from travel and lodging to scheduling appointments. Our International Patient Care Team is here to help. We look forward to making your Mass General Brigham experience as healing and stress-free as possible.  

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