Connect: Clinical Treatment & Translational Research of Sarcoma at MCW

January 5, 2012  |  Research News

A. Craig Mackinnon, M.D., Ph.D., Eduardo Zambrano, M.D., M.S., Department of Pathology

Sarcomas are tumors involving the connective tissues of the body, such as muscles, bones, fat and other soft tissues. Many different types of sarcomas occur that can be classified and grouped using several classification systems. In addition, sarcomas can demonstrate highly variable clinical behavior and response to conventional surgical, medical, and radiation-based interventions. These factors frequently create challenges for physicians in forming an accurate diagnosis and subsequent treatment strategy. Consequently, most major medical centers employ a multidisciplinary or team-based approach for treating sarcoma patients.

Lipoblast

Microphotograph of a lipoblast, a cell commonly encountered in malignant tumors of fatty tissue (liposarcoma). The cell is surrounded by thin red fibers corresponding to collagen, the main component present in connective tissues.

Despite their large diversity, sarcomas are a relatively rare type of cancer with approximately 10,000 to 15,000 individuals diagnosed with sarcoma annually in the United States. Froedtert & The Medical College of Wisconsin is a nationally recognized center for the treatment of sarcoma. As a result, patients from all over the United States visit us to receive treatment. Sarcoma patients coming to Froedtert & The Medical College haveaccess to some of the most experienced and knowledgeable clinical sarcoma experts in the midwest region of the UnitedStates. Each week, a large group of clinicians representing surgical oncology, orthopaedic surgery, plastic surgery, pathology, medical oncology, radiology, radiation oncology andthoracic oncology — along with clinical staff — meet to discuss and develop optimal treatment plans for these patients.

This has been an exciting year for clinical treatment and translational research of sarcoma at Froedtert & The Medical College. As the title of this article suggests, numerousconnections between departments and faculty have been formedand strengthened during this time. Paralleling the strong multidisciplinary approach we use for diagnosis and treatment of sarcomas, research programs are being established between different investigators and departments. These efforts have been greatly promoted by the genuine interest that is shared amongst our faculty and staff, as well as by recent generous donations being used to fund these projects.

The Sarcoma Connection

As Seen In:The Sarcoma Connection, January, 2012
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Sam Pappas, MD, was recently named the Sharon K. Wadina Professor in Sarcoma Research. Using this opportunity, Dr. Pappas has forged research connections with the Department of Pathology (through its Clinical and Translational Research Lab, directed by Craig Mackinnon, MD, PhD) and Human Genetics. The research will use powerful, state-of-the-art molecular techniques to explore and discover novel genetic changes that may drive the formation and growth of sarcoma. These discoveries have the potential to be used clinically for prognostics and therapeutic decisions.

Members of the Department of Pathology led by Eduardo Zambrano, MD, MS, have also recently identified morphologic changes in post-treatment sarcoma tissue samples that strongly and positively correlate with the patient’s response to chemoradiation therapy. By working closely with members of the Department of Radiation Oncology, including Meena Bedi,MD, and Dian Wang, MD, PhD, this collaborative study can hopefully lead to improved treatment strategies and outcomesfor patients being treated at Froedtert & The Medical College.

By combining a shared interest in providing the highest level of care to sarcoma patients with a mutual curiosity to explore themolecular and genetic changes that promote the developmentand growth of sarcoma, physicians and staff at Froedtert & The Medical College are connected, communicating, and committed to further advancing the scope and breadth of treatment options available to patients with sarcoma.