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Pathogenetic factors in soft tissue and bone sarcomas

Authors
Thomas F DeLaney, MD
David G Kirsch, MD, PhD
Section Editors
Robert Maki, MD, PhD
Raphael E Pollock, MD
Deputy Editor
Diane MF Savarese, MD

INTRODUCTION

Sarcomas are malignant tumors arising from skeletal and extraskeletal connective tissues including the peripheral nervous system. Approximately 76 percent arise in soft tissue and the remainder in bone.

There is no clearly defined etiology in most cases of soft tissue sarcoma, but a number of associated or predisposing factors have been identified [1]. These include a genetic predisposition, gene mutations, radiation therapy (RT), chemotherapy, chemical carcinogens, chronic irritation, and lymphedema. In addition, an association between viral infection and sarcoma has been shown for HIV and human herpesvirus 8 in Kaposi sarcoma, and for Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) and smooth muscle tumors in immunocompromised patients.

GENETIC PREDISPOSITION

Some patients with bone and soft tissue sarcomas, particularly children, have a genetic predisposition to cancer [1-5]. The major genetic syndromes are briefly outlined below.

Li-Fraumeni syndrome — Mutations in TP53 are the most common germline mutations that predispose to pediatric sarcomas, including osteosarcoma, rhabdomyosarcoma, and Ewing sarcoma [5]. As many as 7 percent of children with soft tissue sarcomas may have Li-Fraumeni syndrome (LFS) [6]. In a series of 151 children with soft tissue sarcomas, for example, five of the families (3.3 percent) manifested the classic LFS familial cancer syndrome, 10 (6.6 percent) had features consistent with the syndrome, and 16 (10.5 percent) had one parent with a possible hereditary cancer syndrome or with cancer before the age of 60 [4].

The LFS is inherited as an autosomal dominant trait, and a germline mutation in the p53 tumor suppressor gene is found in most affected families (see 'p53 gene' below) [7-9]. LFS is primarily characterized by soft tissue and bone sarcomas and breast cancer; other features include brain tumor, leukemia, and adrenocortical cancer occurring before the age of 45. Sarcomas account for 25 percent of tumors in affected individuals, and they arise at a younger age than those unassociated with LFS. In one series of individuals from the IARC database, 96 percent of the sarcomas arising in individuals with LFS arose before the age of 50, compared with 38 percent before 50 years of age in the general population [10]. (See "Li-Fraumeni syndrome".)

                                   

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