Pediatric sarcoma program focused on long-term quality of life

Jan. 07, 2022

The pediatric sarcoma program at Mayo Clinic Children's Center is not only focused on the best possible outcomes for patients, but on finding outcomes that improve long-term quality of life as well. From advanced treatment options to long-term survivorship programs, these rare bone and soft tissue tumors are handled in a cohesive, multidisciplinary manner by Mayo Clinic's sarcoma physicians.

Pediatric sarcoma treatment at Mayo Clinic Children's Center

Wendy A. Allen-Rhoades, M.D., Ph.D., a pediatric hematologist/oncologist at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, describes the sarcoma program as a well-oiled machine. "We have a very large, very strong core group," said Dr. Allen-Rhoades. "We have multidisciplinary input into the clinical care of our pediatric sarcoma patients."

In many cases, a patient's care begins with the pathologists involved with the sarcoma program. Managed by Mayo Clinic Laboratories, the pathology program can help diagnose a patient's sarcoma as part of their treatment at Mayo Clinic Children's Center or on a referral basis from a patient's local care team.

Pathology can even include next-generation sequencing of a patient's cancer to learn what treatment options might be available for specific genetic mutations. While many sequencing programs address sarcoma, not all can do so for pediatric patients. As of 2020, however, in-house next-generation sequencing at Mayo Clinic includes specific pediatric mutations for sarcoma.

When a patient's sarcoma is confirmed, the treatment team can include pharmacogenomics, specialized surgical teams, interventional radiologists and access to Mayo Clinic's multidisciplinary tumor board. The tumor board meets at least weekly to discuss specific patient cases with relevant specialists. This information is shared with a patient's home physician to help with continuity of care as well.

"When a physician refers a patient for specialty pediatric sarcoma care, it can be challenging to stay up to date on their plan of care when they return home," said Dr. Allen-Rhoades. "Keeping the home physicians involved with our tumor board helps them to follow up appropriately and understand the recommendations made by our multidisciplinary team."

When applicable and necessary, pediatric patients at Mayo Clinic Children's Center also have access to a number of clinical trials. Most often, trials are available in radiation oncology, therapeutics, and fertility preservation and registry.

Patients with pediatric sarcoma also benefit immensely from treatment in Mayo Clinic's hospital setting. With access to adult programs and resources, a rounded approach can be considered. The patient's transition into adulthood can also be relatively seamless.

Long-term support for pediatric sarcoma survivors

A patient's transition into adulthood is unique when cancer is involved. As patients age, it's important that they have access to age-appropriate treatments, resources and supports. Even if the cancer is cured prior to adulthood, there are long-term health considerations a patient must consider as they age out of pediatric treatment programs.

"There are very specific problems that can develop for adults as a result of their childhood sarcoma," said Dr. Allen-Rhoades. "Because we have adult and pediatric all in one place and we have expertise on both sides of the line, we're really able to take care of those patients in a very meaningful and long-term way."

Mayo Clinic's adolescent and young adult (AYA) cancer program is especially relevant to sarcoma because these tumors are often diagnosed in teenaged patients. The AYA program provides health care and social and emotional resources for patients that are appropriate to their ages and stages of life.

One element of this program is consultation with fertility preservation experts for any patient with sarcoma who might benefit from such support. Mayo Clinic Children's Center offers fertility preservation options for both pre- and post-pubertal males and females diagnosed with sarcoma, as well as many other types of pediatric cancers.

All tissues in this program are stored on site and follow Mayo Clinic's research protocol for fertility preservation. Patients can also expect same-day access to andrology and next-day access to the fertility preservation team. In most cases, procedures for fertility preservation are coordinated with other procedures as well.

These survivorship programs, specialized resources and multifaceted teams provide patients with pediatric sarcoma the best possible outcomes now and in the future.

For more information

Refer a patient to Mayo Clinic.