NCCN Guidelines for Patients
Soft Tissue Sarcoma, Version 1.2014
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
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 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.