Targeted therapies are drugs that interfere with the way that cancer cells grow. They are often given as part of research trials and are sometimes used to treat soft tissue sarcomas.

About targeted therapy for soft tissue sarcoma

Targeted therapies are drugs that interfere with the way that cancer cells grow. They include cancer growth inhibitors and monoclonal antibodies.

Targeted therapies are often given as part of research trials and are sometimes used to treat soft tissue sarcomas.

Imatinib (Glivec®)

Imatinib is a type of treatment called a tyrosine kinase inhibitor (TKI). It is used as the first treatment for people with a type of soft tissue sarcoma called GIST 

  • If a tumour cannot be completely removed with surgery
  • if the tumours have begun to spread
  • before surgery, to help shrink a tumour.

Imatinib may also be used to treat a rare type of soft tissue sarcoma called dermatofibrosarcoma protuberans.

Imatinib works by blocking (inhibiting) signals inside cancer cells. Blocking the signals stops a series of chemical reactions that make the cells grow and divide. The chemical it blocks is called tyrosine kinase.

Imatinib is taken once a day as tablets. The side effects of imatinib are usually mild or moderate. Some of the common side effects include:

Imatinib can sometimes control GISTs for several years.

Sunitinib (Sutent®)

Sunitinib is another TKI. Sunitinib may be used to treat a GIST that cannot be removed or has spread. It may be used to treat GISTs that do not respond to imatinib, or if you get a lot of side effects with imatinib.

Sunitinib blocks signals in the cancer cells and stops a series of chemical reactions that make the cell grow and divide. It also helps stop the tumour developing new blood vessels. Without blood vessels, the tumour cannot get the nutrients it needs to survive.

Sunitinib is taken as tablets. Possible side effects include:

Regorafenib (Stivarga®)

This is a newer TKI. It may sometimes be used after imatinib and sunitinib to treat an advanced GIST that cannot be removed with surgery.

Regorafenib may shrink the tumour or stop it growing for a time. Regorafenib is taken as tablets that are swallowed whole with a glass of water, after a light meal.

Possible side effects include:

Pazopanib (Votrient®)

Pazopanib is another TKI. It may be used to treat some types of advanced soft tissue sarcoma. It is taken once a day as tablets.

Possible side effects include:

Pazopanib has not been approved by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) or the Scottish Medicines Consortium (SMC) for use on the NHS. Because of this, it may not be widely available.

Olaratumab (Lartruvo®)

Olaratumab is a type of targeted therapy called a monoclonal antibody. It works by targeting a specific protein on the surface of the cells called PDGFR-alpha. By blocking this protein, olaratumab can cause some tumours to shrink or stop growing for a time.

It may be used to treat advanced soft tissue sarcoma that cannot be treated with surgery or radiotherapy. Olaratumab is given in combination with the chemotherapy drug doxorubicin. It is given by drip into a vein (intravenously).

Possible side effects include:

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