Sarcomas account for fewer than 3% of all cancers across all age groups but they are among the more common types of solid tumour in childhood.

We have a once-in-a-lifetime chance to study the disease in a way no-one in the world has ever been able to do before.

Researchers in the laboratory

Sarcomas account for fewer than 3% of all cancers across all age groups but they are among the more common types of solid tumour in childhood, comprising 20% of cancers in children and up to 10% in young adults. Two in five sarcoma patients will die from their disease.

Sarcoma is cancer of soft tissue (such as muscle), connective tissue (such as tendon or cartilage), or bone. It can develop anywhere in the body.

Main types in childhood

Rhabdomyosarcoma is the most common type of soft tissue sarcoma in children aged 0-14 years. It is most common in children under 10, but also occurs in teenagers and adults. It usually begins in skeletal muscles.

Other sarcomas include Ewing sarcoma, osteosarcoma, myxofibrosarcoma and inflammatory myofibroblastic tumours (IMT). IMT is a rare subgroup of soft tissue sarcomas, which, if not cured by surgery, has a high likelihood of recurring locally and may rapidly progress to fatal disease.

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Please note that, while Children’s Cancer Institute conducts medical research into childhood cancer and works closely with clinicians, we do NOT treat patients and are unable to provide treatment advice. For questions or concerns about an individual child’s cancer treatment, or to find out about relevant clinical trials, please contact your treating oncologist (cancer specialist).

Thomas’s story

Thomas was living with his family in Shanghai when his parents noticed weakness in the right side of his face. Back in Perth, and after 12 months of tests, a biopsy confirmed that Thomas had rhabdomyosarcoma. Read Thomas’s story.

Our sarcoma research

Examples of our sarcoma research teams, achievements and projects include:

  • We are doing research to help identify new rhabdomyosarcoma treatments focusing on in vitro growth and drug sensitivity of patient-derived rhabdomyosarcoma cells. Methods developed in this project can then be used to predict the most effective rhabdomyosarcoma treatments for children and adolescents.
  • Our sarcoma team led by clinical research fellow Dr Toby Trahair has obtained tissue samples from inflammatory myofibroblastic tumours (IMT) from patients at different stages of disease and have established an avatar model in mice of a rare, aggressive subtype. We believe it is the first of its kind and will help us evaluate new approaches to treating this rare subtype.
  • The Zero Childhood Cancer national personalised medicine program, led by Childen’s Cancer Institute and Sydney Children’s Hospitals Network, opened a national clinical trial in late 2017. It includes children with the most serious cases of infant, childhood and adolescent cancer, including sarcoma.