National Cancer Institute


Expert-reviewed information summary about the treatment of uterine sarcomas.

This PDQ cancer information summary for health professionals provides comprehensive, peer-reviewed, evidence-based information about the treatment of uterine sarcoma. It is intended as a resource to inform and assist clinicians who care for cancer patients. It does not provide formal guidelines or recommendations for making health care decisions.

This summary is reviewed regularly and updated as necessary by the PDQ Adult Treatment Editorial Board, which is editorially independent of the National Cancer Institute (NCI). The summary reflects an independent review of the literature and does not represent a policy statement of NCI or the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

Uterine Sarcoma Treatment

General Information About Uterine Sarcoma

Uterine sarcomas comprise less than 1% of gynecologic malignancies and 2% to 5% of all uterine malignancies. The following tumors arise primarily from three distinct tissues:

The three distinct entities are often grouped under uterine sarcomas; however, each type of tumor is currently being studied in separate clinical trials.

Carcinosarcomas (the preferred designation by the World Health Organization [WHO]) are also referred to as mixed mesodermal sarcomas or mullerian tumors. Controversy exists about the following issues:

  • Whether they are true sarcomas.
  • Whether the sarcomatous elements are actually derived from a common epithelial-cell precursor that also gives rise to the usually more abundant adenocarcinomatous elements.

The stromal components of the carcinosarcomas are further characterized by whether they contain homologous elements, such as malignant mesenchymal tissue considered possibly native to the uterus, or heterologous elements, such as striated muscle, cartilage, or bone, which are foreign to the uterus. Carcinosarcomas parallel endometrial cancer in its postmenopausal predominance and in other of its epidemiologic features; increasingly, the treatment of carcinosarcomas is becoming similar to combined modality approaches for endometrial adenocarcinomas.

Other rare forms of uterine sarcomas also fall under the WHO classification of mesenchymal and mixed tumors of the uterus. These include:

  • Mixed endometrial stromal and smooth muscle tumors.
  • Adenosarcomas, in which the epithelial elements appear benign within a malignant mesenchymal background.
  • Embryonal botryoides or rhabdomyosarcomas, which are found almost exclusively in infants.
  • PEComa—a perivascular epithelial-cell tumor that may behave in a malignant fashion, which is the latest to be added.

(Refer to the PDQ summary on Childhood Rhabdomyosarcoma for more information.)

Risk Factors

The only documented etiologic factor in 10% to 25% of these malignancies is prior pelvic radiation therapy, which is often administered for benign uterine bleeding that began 5 to 25 years earlier. An increased incidence of uterine sarcoma has been associated with tamoxifen in the treatment of breast cancer. Subsequently, increases have also been noted when tamoxifen was given to prevent breast cancer in women at increased risk—a possible result of the estrogenic effect of tamoxifen on the uterus. Because of this increase, patients on tamoxifen should have follow-up pelvic examinations and should undergo endometrial biopsy if there is any abnormal uterine bleeding.

Prognosis

The prognosis for women with uterine sarcoma is primarily dependent on the extent of disease at the time of diagnosis. For women with carcinosarcomas, significant predictors of metastatic disease at initial surgery include:

  • Isthmic or cervical location.
  • Lymphatic vascular space invasion.
  • Serous and clear cell histology.
  • Grade 2 or 3 carcinoma.

The above factors in addition to the following ones correlate with a progression-free interval:

  • Adnexal spread.
  • Lymph node metastases.
  • Tumor size.
  • Peritoneal cytologic findings.
  • Depth of myometrial invasion.

Factors that bear no relationship to the presence or absence of metastases at surgical exploration are:

  • The presence or absence of stromal heterologous elements.
  • The types of such elements.
  • The grade of the stromal components.
  • The mitotic activity of the stromal components.

In one study, women with a well-differentiated sarcomatous component or carcinosarcomas had significantly longer progression-free intervals than those with moderately to poorly differentiated sarcomas for the homologous and heterologous types. The recurrence rate was 44% for homologous tumors and 63% for heterologous tumors. The type of heterologous sarcoma had no effect on the progression-free interval.

For women with leiomyosarcomas, some investigators consider tumor size to be the most important prognostic factor; women with tumors greater than 5.0 cm in maximum diameter have a poor prognosis. However, in a Gynecologic Oncology Group study, the mitotic index was the only factor significantly related to progression-free interval. Leiomyosarcomas matched for other known prognostic factors may be more aggressive than their carcinosarcoma counterparts. The 5-year survival rate for women with stage I disease, which is confined to the corpus, is approximately 50% versus 0% to 20% for the remaining stages.

Surgery alone can be curative if the malignancy is contained within the uterus. The value of pelvic radiation therapy is not established. Current studies consist primarily of phase II chemotherapy trials for patients with advanced disease. Adjuvant chemotherapy following complete resection for patients with stage I or II disease was not established to be effective in a randomized trial. Yet, other nonrandomized trials have reported improved survival following adjuvant chemotherapy with or without radiation therapy.

Related Summaries

Other PDQ summaries containing information related to uterine sarcoma include the following:

  • Adult Soft Tissue Sarcoma Treatment
  • Childhood Soft Tissue Sarcoma Treatment
  • Endometrial Cancer Prevention
  • Endometrial Cancer Screening
  • Endometrial Cancer Treatment
  • Genetics of Breast and Gynecologic Cancers

Cellular Classification of Uterine Sarcoma

The most common histologic types of uterine sarcomas include:

  • Carcinosarcomas (mixed mesodermal sarcomas [40%–50%]).
  • Leiomyosarcomas (30%).
  • Endometrial stromal sarcomas (15%).

The uterine neoplasm classification of the International Society of Gynecologic Pathologists and the World Health Organization uses the term carcinosarcomas for all primary uterine neoplasms containing malignant elements of both epithelial and stromal light microscopic appearances, regardless of whether malignant heterologous elements are present.

Stage Information for Uterine Sarcoma

Definitions: FIGO

The Féderation Internationale de Gynécologie et d’Obstétrique (FIGO) and the American Joint Committee on Cancer (AJCC) have designated staging to define carcinoma of the corpus uteri, which applies to uterine sarcoma; the FIGO system is most commonly used.

Uterine sarcomas include leiomyosarcomas, endometrial stromal sarcomas, and adenosarcomas.

Treatment Option Overview

Surgery is often the principal means of diagnosis and is the primary treatment for all patients with uterine sarcoma. If the diagnosis is known, the extent of surgery is planned according to the stage of the tumor. Hysterectomy is usually performed when a uterine malignancy is suspected, except for rare instances when preservation of the uterus in a young patient is deemed safe for the type of cancer (e.g., a totally confined low-grade leiomyosarcoma in a woman who desires to retain childbearing potential). Medically suitable patients with the preoperative diagnosis of uterine sarcoma are considered candidates for abdominal hysterectomy, bilateral salpingo-oophorectomy, and pelvic and periaortic selective lymphadenectomy. Cytologic washings are obtained from the pelvis and abdomen. Thorough examination of the diaphragm, omentum, and upper abdomen is performed.

There is no firm evidence from a prospective study that adjuvant chemotherapy or radiation therapy is of benefit for patients with uterine sarcoma. In one Gynecologic Oncology Group (GOG) study, the use of adjuvant doxorubicin did not alter the survival rate of patients with resected stage I or stage II uterine sarcomas; however, interpretation of these results is difficult because this study included some patients who received radiation and three types of uterine sarcomas that have variable responses to doxorubicin.[] However, because the risk of disease recurrence is high even with localized presentations, many physicians have considered the use of adjuvant chemotherapy or radiation therapy. A report of a study ( [NCT00002546]) that addressed radiation therapy versus adjuvant chemotherapy is awaited.

Stage I Uterine Sarcoma

Standard treatment options:

In a nonrandomized, Gynecologic Oncology Group study in patients with stage I and II carcinosarcomas, those who had pelvic radiation therapy had a significant reduction of recurrences within the radiation treatment field but no alteration in survival. A large nonrandomized study demonstrated improved survival and a lower local failure rate in patients with mixed mullerian tumors following postoperative external and intracavitary radiation therapy. One nonrandomized study that predominantly included patients with carcinosarcomas appeared to show benefit for adjuvant therapy with cisplatin and doxorubicin.

Current Clinical Trials

Check the list of NCI-supported cancer clinical trials that are now accepting patients with stage I uterine sarcoma. The list of clinical trials can be further narrowed by location, drug, intervention, and other criteria.

General information about clinical trials is also available from the NCI website.

Stage II Uterine Sarcoma

Standard treatment options:

In a nonrandomized, Gynecologic Oncology Group study in patients with stage I and II carcinosarcomas, those who had pelvic radiation therapy had a significant reduction of recurrences within the radiation treatment field but no alteration in survival. One nonrandomized study that predominantly included patients with carcinosarcomas appeared to show benefit for adjuvant therapy with cisplatin and doxorubicin.

Current Clinical Trials

Check the list of NCI-supported cancer clinical trials that are now accepting patients with stage II uterine sarcoma. The list of clinical trials can be further narrowed by location, drug, intervention, and other criteria.

General information about clinical trials is also available from the NCI website.

Stage III Uterine Sarcoma

Standard treatment options:

  • Surgery (total abdominal hysterectomy, bilateral salpingo-oophorectomy, pelvic and periaortic selective lymphadenectomy, and resection of all gross tumor).

Treatment options under clinical evaluation:

Carcinosarcomas (the preferred designation by the World Health Organization) are also referred to as mixed mesodermal or mullerian tumors. Controversy exists about the following issues:

  • Whether they are true sarcomas.
  • Whether the sarcomatous elements are actually derived from a common epithelial cell precursor that also gives rise to the usually more abundant adenocarcinomatous elements.

The stromal components of the carcinosarcomas are further characterized by whether they contain homologous elements (such as malignant mesenchymal tissue considered possibly native to the uterus) or heterologous elements (such as striated muscle, cartilage, or bone, which are foreign to the uterus). Carcinosarcomas parallel endometrial cancer in its postmenopausal predominance and in other of its epidemiologic features; increasingly, the treatment of carcinosarcomas is becoming similar to combined modality approaches for endometrial adenocarcinomas.

Patients who present with uterine sarcoma have been treated on a series of phase II studies by the Gynecologic Oncology Group, including the GOG-87B trial, for example. These chemotherapy studies have documented some antitumor activity for cisplatin, doxorubicin, and ifosfamide. These studies have also documented differences in response leading to separate trials for patients with carcinosarcomas and leiomyosarcomas. As an example, in patients previously untreated with chemotherapy, ifosfamide had a 32.2% response rate in patients with carcinosarcomas and a 17.2% partial response rate in patients with leiomyosarcomas.

A randomized comparison that was seen in the GOG-108 trial, for example, of ifosfamide with or without cisplatin for first-line therapy for patients with measurable advanced or recurrent carcinosarcomas demonstrated a higher response rate (54% vs. 34%) and longer progression-free survival (PFS) on the combination arm (6 months vs. 4 months), but there was no significant improvement in survival (9 months vs. 8 months).[] The follow-up [NCT00003128] study utilized 3-day ifosfamide regimens (instead of the more toxic 5-day regimen in the preceding study) for the control and for a combination with paclitaxel (with filgrastim starting on day 4). The combination was superior in response rates (45% vs. 29%), PFS (8.4 months vs. 5.8 months), and overall survival (13.5 months and 8.4 months). The hazard ratio for death favored the combination 0.69 (95% confidence interval, 0.49–0.97).[] In this study, 52% of 179 evaluable patients had recurrent disease, 18% had stage III disease, and 30% had stage IV disease. In addition, imbalances were present in the sites of disease and in the use of prior radiation therapy, and 30 patients were excluded for wrong pathology.

A role for chemotherapy as adjuvant to surgery has not yet been established.

Current Clinical Trials

Check the list of NCI-supported cancer clinical trials that are now accepting patients with stage III uterine sarcoma. The list of clinical trials can be further narrowed by location, drug, intervention, and other criteria.

General information about clinical trials is also available from the NCI website.

Stage IV Uterine Sarcoma

There is currently no standard therapy for patients with stage IV disease. These patients should be entered into an ongoing clinical trial.

Carcinosarcomas (the preferred designation by the World Health Organization) are also referred to as mixed mesodermal or mullerian tumors. Controversy exists about the following issues:

  • Whether they are true sarcomas.
  • Whether the sarcomatous elements are actually derived from a common epithelial cell precursor that also gives rise to the usually more abundant adenocarcinomatous elements.

The stromal components of the carcinosarcomas are further characterized by whether they contain homologous elements, such as malignant mesenchymal tissue considered possibly native to the uterus, or heterologous elements, such as striated muscle, cartilage, or bone, which is foreign to the uterus. Carcinosarcomas parallel endometrial cancer in its postmenopausal predominance and in other of its epidemiologic features; increasingly, the treatment of carcinosarcomas is becoming similar to combined modality approaches for endometrial adenocarcinomas.

Patients who present with uterine sarcoma have been treated on a series of phase II studies by the Gynecologic Oncology Group, including the GOG-87B trial, for example. These chemotherapy studies have documented some antitumor activity for cisplatin, doxorubicin, and ifosfamide. These studies have also documented differences in response leading to separate trials for patients with carcinosarcomas and leiomyosarcomas. As an example, in patients previously untreated with chemotherapy, ifosfamide had a 32.2% response rate in patients with carcinosarcomas, a 33% response rate in patients with endometrial stromal cell sarcomas,, and a 17.2% partial response rate in patients with leiomyosarcomas. Doxorubicin in combination with dacarbazine or cyclophosphamide is no more active than doxorubicin alone for advanced disease. Cisplatin has activity as first-line therapy and minimal activity as second-line therapy for patients with carcinosarcomas, but cisplatin is inactive as first- or second-line therapy for patients with leiomyosarcomas.

A randomized comparison that was seen in the GOG-108 trial, for example, of ifosfamide with or without cisplatin for first-line therapy for patients with measurable advanced or recurrent carcinosarcomas demonstrated a higher response rate (54% vs. 34%) and longer progression-free survival (PFS) on the combination arm (6 months vs. 4 months), but there was no significant improvement in survival (9 months vs. 8 months).[] The follow-up [NCT00003128] study utilized 3-day ifosfamide regimens (instead of the more toxic 5-day regimen in the preceding study) for the control and for a combination with paclitaxel (with filgrastim starting on day 4). The combination was superior in response rates (45% vs. 29%), PFS (8.4 months vs. 5.8 months), and overall survival (13.5 months and 8.4 months). The hazard ratio for death favored the combination 0.69 (95% confidence interval, 0.49–0.97).[] In this study, 52% of 179 evaluable patients had recurrent disease, 18% had stage III disease, and 30% had stage IV disease. In addition, imbalances were present in the sites of disease and in the use of prior radiation therapy, and 30 patients were excluded for wrong pathology.

Current Clinical Trials

Check the list of NCI-supported cancer clinical trials that are now accepting patients with stage IV uterine sarcoma. The list of clinical trials can be further narrowed by location, drug, intervention, and other criteria.

General information about clinical trials is also available from the NCI website.

Recurrent Uterine Sarcoma

There is currently no standard therapy for patients with recurrent disease. These patients should be entered into an ongoing clinical trial.

Patients who present with uterine sarcoma have been treated on a series of phase II studies by the Gynecologic Oncology Group, including the GOG-87B trial, for example. These chemotherapy studies have documented some antitumor activity for cisplatin, doxorubicin, and ifosfamide. These studies have also documented differences in response leading to separate trials for patients with carcinosarcomas and leiomyosarcomas. As an example, in patients previously untreated with chemotherapy, ifosfamide had a 32.2% response rate in patients with carcinosarcomas, a 33% response rate in patients with endometrial stromal cell sarcomas, and a 17.2% partial response rate in patients with leiomyosarcomas. Doxorubicin in combination with dacarbazine or cyclophosphamide is no more active than doxorubicin alone for recurrent disease. Cisplatin has activity as first-line therapy and minimal activity as second-line therapy for patients with carcinosarcomas, but cisplatin is inactive as first- or second-line therapy for patients with leiomyosarcomas. A regimen of gemcitabine plus docetaxel had a 53% response rate in patients with unresectable leiomyosarcomas and is undergoing further study.

A randomized comparison that was seen in the GOG-108 trial, for example, of ifosfamide with or without cisplatin for first-line therapy for patients with measurable advanced or recurrent carcinosarcomas demonstrated a higher response rate (54% vs. 34%) and longer progression-free survival (PFS) on the combination arm (6 months vs. 4 months), but there was no significant improvement in survival (9 months vs. 8 months).[] The follow-up [NCT00003128] study utilized 3-day ifosfamide regimens (instead of the more toxic 5-day regimen in the preceding study) for the control and for a combination with paclitaxel (with filgrastim starting on day 4). The combination was superior in response rates (45% vs. 29%), PFS (8.4 months vs. 5.8 months), and overall survival (13.5 months and 8.4 months). The hazard ratio for death favored the combination 0.69 (95% confidence interval, 0.49–0.97).[] In this study, 52% of 179 evaluable patients had recurrent disease, 18% had stage III disease, and 30% had stage IV disease. In addition, imbalances were present in the sites of disease and in the use of prior radiation therapy, and 30 patients were excluded for wrong pathology.

For patients with carcinosarcomas who have localized recurrence to the pelvis confirmed by computed tomographic scanning, radiation therapy may be effective palliation. Phase I and II clinical trials are appropriate for patients who recur with distant metastasis and are unresponsive to first-line phase II trials. High-dose progesterone hormone therapy may be of some benefit to patients with low-grade stromal sarcoma.

Current Clinical Trials

Check the list of NCI-supported cancer clinical trials that are now accepting patients with recurrent uterine sarcoma. The list of clinical trials can be further narrowed by location, drug, intervention, and other criteria.

General information about clinical trials is also available from the NCI website.

Changes to This Summary (07/15/2015)

The PDQ cancer information summaries are reviewed regularly and updated as new information becomes available. This section describes the latest changes made to this summary as of the date above.

Editorial changes were made to this summary.

This summary is written and maintained by the PDQ Adult Treatment Editorial Board, which is editorially independent of NCI. The summary reflects an independent review of the literature and does not represent a policy statement of NCI or NIH. More information about summary policies and the role of the PDQ Editorial Boards in maintaining the PDQ summaries can be found on the About This PDQ Summary and PDQ® - NCI's Comprehensive Cancer Database pages.

About This PDQ Summary

Purpose of This Summary

This PDQ cancer information summary for health professionals provides comprehensive, peer-reviewed, evidence-based information about the treatment of uterine sarcoma. It is intended as a resource to inform and assist clinicians who care for cancer patients. It does not provide formal guidelines or recommendations for making health care decisions.

Reviewers and Updates

This summary is reviewed regularly and updated as necessary by the PDQ Adult Treatment Editorial Board, which is editorially independent of the National Cancer Institute (NCI). The summary reflects an independent review of the literature and does not represent a policy statement of NCI or the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

Board members review recently published articles each month to determine whether an article should:

  • be discussed at a meeting,
  • be cited with text, or
  • replace or update an existing article that is already cited.

Changes to the summaries are made through a consensus process in which Board members evaluate the strength of the evidence in the published articles and determine how the article should be included in the summary.

The lead reviewers for Uterine Sarcoma Treatment are:

  • Leslie R. Boyd, MD (New York University Medical Center)
  • Franco M. Muggia, MD (New York University Medical Center)

Any comments or questions about the summary content should be submitted to Cancer.gov through the NCI website's Email Us. Do not contact the individual Board Members with questions or comments about the summaries. Board members will not respond to individual inquiries.

Levels of Evidence

Some of the reference citations in this summary are accompanied by a level-of-evidence designation. These designations are intended to help readers assess the strength of the evidence supporting the use of specific interventions or approaches. The PDQ Adult Treatment Editorial Board uses a formal evidence ranking system in developing its level-of-evidence designations.

Permission to Use This Summary

PDQ is a registered trademark. Although the content of PDQ documents can be used freely as text, it cannot be identified as an NCI PDQ cancer information summary unless it is presented in its entirety and is regularly updated. However, an author would be permitted to write a sentence such as “NCI’s PDQ cancer information summary about breast cancer prevention states the risks succinctly: [include excerpt from the summary].”

The preferred citation for this PDQ summary is:

National Cancer Institute: PDQ® Uterine Sarcoma Treatment. Bethesda, MD: National Cancer Institute. Date last modified . Available at: http://www.cancer.gov/types/uterine/hp/uterine-sarcoma-treatment-pdq. Accessed .

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Disclaimer

Based on the strength of the available evidence, treatment options may be described as either “standard” or “under clinical evaluation.” These classifications should not be used as a basis for insurance reimbursement determinations. More information on insurance coverage is available on Cancer.gov on the Managing Cancer Care page.

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