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Chemotherapy for Soft Tissue Sarcoma

MSK soft tissue sarcoma expert Bill Tap examines a patient

Chemotherapy is a treatment for soft tissue sarcoma that uses drugs to attack cancer cells. It generally works by attacking rapidly dividing cells in the body. Other therapies target the genetic mutations found in tumors or stimulate the immune system to fight the cancer.

At Memorial Sloan Kettering, our patients receive chemotherapy and other drug therapies from medical oncologists who specialize in caring for people with tumors in the soft tissue. Our dedicated sarcoma medical oncologists (the doctors who treat cancer using drug therapies) work with you to create a customized treatment plan that fits your needs and leads to the best possible outcome for you, with the least side effects.

MSK’s medical oncologists bring extraordinary skill to caring for people with advanced soft tissue sarcoma. Our highly specialized team focuses on soft tissue sarcoma. We have deep knowledge of the newest clinical trials for soft tissue sarcoma. These studies may offer access to advanced therapies years before they’re available elsewhere.

Here, you can find an overview of how drugs are used to fight soft tissue sarcoma, as well as information on MSK’s particular expertise.

Targeted Therapy for Soft Tissue Sarcoma

Targeted therapies are a newer form of drug therapy than chemotherapy. They allow doctors to tailor treatment to the specific genetic differences found in an individual tumor.

These genetic changes are identified using a technology called genomic testing. Genomic testing is also called tumor sequencing or molecular profiling. It involves looking at the cells taken from a tumor to see if there are any genetic mutations (changes in the genes) that could be linked to the tumor.

Genomic testing can help our doctors personalize your care. We can rule out therapies that may not work for you. In some cases, you may be able to join a cutting-edge clinical trial of targeted therapies. This approach is known as precision medicine.

MSK is a world leader in developing targeted therapies for cancer treatment. For example, a recent clinical trial conducted at MSK resulted in the Food and Drug Administration granting approval to a drug called olaratumab (Lartruvo®). This drug has worked particularly well for people with leiomyosarcoma.

MSK physician Aimee Crago consults with two colleagues.
New Targeted Drug Therapy for Advanced Sarcoma Extends Survival by Nearly a Year
Learn more about olaratumab, a promising drug that has been shown to extend survival for people with advanced soft tissue sarcoma — particularly leiomyosarcoma — by nearly a year in a phase II clinical trial.
Learn more

Immunotherapy for Soft Tissue Sarcoma

Drugs that help the immune system recognize and fight cancer are a very effective way to treat advanced melanoma, lung cancer, and other cancers. MSK has been a pioneer in developing this approach, known as immunotherapy.

We are currently studying the combination of two checkpoint inhibitors for soft tissue sarcoma that has spread. The drugs are called nivolumab (Opdivo®) and pembrolizumab (Keytruda®).

Both of these medications block a protein called PD-1, which is found on immune cells. PD-1 acts like a brake on the immune system. It tamps down immune responses. Nivolumab and pembrolizumab release this brake. They allow the immune system to mount a stronger attack against cancer. We have found these drugs to be effective in undifferentiated pleomorphic sarcoma, leiomyosarcoma, synovial sarcoma, and liposarcoma.

Memorial Sloan Kettering has one of the largest soft tissue sarcoma immunotherapy programs in the world. We have an active basic science research program. Several of our clinical trials are evaluating novel immunotherapy combinations and adoptive T cell and chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) strategies. MSK patients may be eligible to enroll in these and other clinical trials. These studies test promising new approaches for soft tissue sarcoma treatment.

Learn more about immunotherapy for soft tissue sarcoma

Why choose to have drug therapy at Memorial Sloan Kettering?

  • In order to treat soft tissue sarcoma in the best possible way, it takes a dedicated team of doctors, nurses, and quality-of-life experts. Our soft tissue sarcoma team is one of the largest and most experienced in the country.
  • We take a personalized approach to soft tissue sarcoma care. We tailor the selection of which chemotherapy drugs are best suited to you as well as how best to integrate those drugs into your overall care plan.
  • Our goal is not just to cure or control the cancer but to ensure that each person who comes to MSK for care has the best possible quality of life. That’s why our medical oncologists put so much effort into selecting the best treatment for each individual.