Treatment for Sarcoma: Systemic Therapy

Systemic therapy involves the use of drugs to treat cancer. As part of your multidisciplinary team, your world-renowned sarcoma medical oncologists may recommend systemic therapies (such as chemotherapy, targeted therapy or immunotherapy) as a standard of care treatment or as part of a clinical trial. Systemic therapy may be administered before or after surgery. It may also be recommended to patients who are diagnosed after the sarcoma has spread.

Some sarcomas have specific genetic changes that can be targeted by drug therapies. Our team may recommend that tumors be tested to identify possible treatment options or to get information on the likelihood that a particular treatment will benefit a specific patient.


Chemotherapy drugs enter the bloodstream and kill fast-growing cells – both cancer cells and normal cells – throughout the body. Chemotherapy is administered in cycles, during which treatment is given for a certain length of time and is followed by a period of rest and recovery. Often, it involves more than one drug. Patients may receive chemotherapy drugs as a pill or as a liquid slowly injected into a vein.

Isolated Limb Infusion

Fox Chase is one of the few cancer centers nationwide capable of performing isolated limb infusion on very large extremity sarcomas, which are among the most difficult to treat. Isolated limb infusion temporarily isolates the blood supply to an extremity to allow chemotherapy to concentrate where it is needed. It is a minimally invasive procedure that allows delivery of high doses of chemotherapy to treat recurrent in-transit sarcoma in a limb.

Targeted Therapy

Targeted therapy drugs work by identifying a specific gene or protein on cancer cells that aren’t generally present in normal cells – thus targeting the cancer cells to block their growth while limiting damage to normal cells. Not all tumors have the same targets. Sometimes targeted drugs are effective when chemotherapy drugs are not, or the two can be taken in combination.

Ablation or Embolization

These treatments are designed to help prevent or relieve symptoms. They are often used with other types of treatment.

Ablation is a minimally invasive procedure involving a probe that is inserted into the tumor to destroy it with extreme heat or cold, or with high-energy radio waves. Embolization blocks the blood supply to the tumor.