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NCCN Guidelines for Patients


Soft Tissue Sarcoma, Version 1.2014



Sarcoma basics

Drug treatments

Drug treatments

Drugs are another type of treatment for cancer. Drugs

can travel in blood and reach cancer cells anywhere

in the body. Chemotherapy, targeted therapy, and

immunotherapy are cancer drugs used for sarcomas.

See Chart 1.1

for a list of drug names recommended

by NCCN. Which drugs are used depends on the type

of sarcoma.


Chemotherapy, or ‘chemo,’ is a class of drugs that is

used to kill cancer cells. Some chemotherapy drugs

kill cancer cells by damaging their DNA or disrupting

the making of DNA. Other drugs interfere with cell

parts that are needed for making new cells.

Chemotherapy has many uses. It is used as

neoadjuvant, primary, or adjuvant treatment. It is also

used to treat metastases.

Most chemotherapy drugs for sarcoma are liquids that

are injected into a vein. Others are pills. Chemotherapy

drugs differ in the way they work, so often more than

one drug is used. A combination regimen is the use of

two or more chemotherapy drugs.

Chemotherapy is often given in cycles of treatment

days followed by days of rest. The cycles vary in

length depending on which drugs are used. Giving

chemotherapy in cycles gives your body a chance to

recover after receiving chemotherapy. If you will have

chemotherapy, ask your doctor if the chemotherapy

will be given in cycles. If it will be then ask how many

cycles and days of treatment there will be.

The side effects of chemotherapy can differ between

people. Some people have many side effects. Others

have few. Some side effects can be very serious

while others can be unpleasant but not serious. Side

effects of chemotherapy depend on the drug type,

amount taken, length of treatment, and the person.

In general, side effects are caused by the death of

fast-growing normal cells. These cells are found in the

hair follicles, gut, mouth, and blood. Thus, common

side effects of chemotherapy include low blood

cell counts, not feeling hungry, nausea, vomiting,

diarrhea, hair loss, and mouth sores. Please ask your

treatment team for a complete list of known common

and rare side effects.


Chemotherapy and radiation given together is called

chemoradiation. Sometimes these treatments are

given at the same time. Sometimes, the treatments

are staggered. For example, chemotherapy is given,

then radiation, and then more chemotherapy.

Targeted therapy

Targeted therapy stops the action of molecules

involved in the growth of cancer cells. Some targeted

therapy drugs block the chemical signals that tell the

sarcoma cells to grow. Other targeted therapy drugs

block signals that cause new blood vessels to form.

Other drugs target hormones.

Targeted therapy isn’t used for every sarcoma. Ask

your doctor if targeted therapy may help you. Also ask

about side effects. Targeted therapy harms normal

cells less than chemotherapy but still has side effects.

Side effects differ between drugs. Most targeted

therapies come in pill form but some need to be



The immune system is the body’s natural defense

against infection and disease. The immune system

includes many chemicals and proteins. These

chemicals and proteins are made naturally in your body.

Immunotherapy increases the activity of your immune

system. By doing so, it improves your body’s ability

to find and destroy cancer cells. Interferon alfa is an

immunotherapy used for desmoid tumors.