Chemotherapy for Sarcoma in Children

Chemotherapy is a group of drugs that destroy cancer cells in the body. These drugs can be given by mouth or through a vein with intravenous (IV) infusion. Oncologists at the Stephen D. Hassenfeld Children’s Center for Cancer and Blood Disorders, part of Hassenfeld Children's Hospital of New York at NYU Langone, recommend certain drugs based on the type of sarcoma and how advanced it is.

For instance, if a soft tissue sarcoma is small and slow growing, chemotherapy may not be needed. Small soft tissue sarcomas are sometimes treated with surgery alone. Our specialists tailor the length and number of treatment cycles to meet your child’s needs. 

Chemotherapy for Ewing Sarcoma

Children with Ewing sarcoma are typically treated with chemotherapy for three to four months before surgery. This helps destroy any cancer cells circulating in the blood, as well as those that may have spread to other parts of the body. Chemotherapy can also shrink the tumor before limb-sparing surgery and reduce the odds of the cancer returning. Some children may also receive radiation therapy in place of or in addition to surgery.

Children are given a combination of chemotherapy drugs through a vein with IV infusion once every two weeks in an outpatient room at the Stephen D. Hassenfeld Children’s Center for Cancer and Blood Disorders or as an inpatient in the hospital. After surgery or radiation, chemotherapy is continued for about six months to destroy any remaining cancer cells and reduce the risk of a recurrence.

Chemotherapy for Osteosarcoma

Chemotherapy is often used to treat childhood osteosarcomas before and after surgery. Treatment before surgery helps destroy cancer cells in the blood and other parts of the body. It can also shrink tumors before a limb-sparing surgery.

Chemotherapy for osteosarcoma is given through a vein with IV infusion weekly for three weeks. Afterward, the child takes one week off to let the body rest. He or she follows this regimen for about two months before surgery. If the tumor responds well, the same drug or drugs are given with the same treatment schedule after surgery for four to six months. If not, doctors may recommend using different chemotherapy drugs. Chemotherapy after surgery helps destroy any remaining cancer cells and reduces the risk of a recurrence.

Chemotherapy for Rhabdomyosarcoma

Your child’s doctor selects the type of chemotherapy drugs used for childhood rhabdomyosarcoma based on the location and subtype of the tumor. The treatment can last from six months to a year.

Managing Side Effects

Chemotherapy works by attacking cells that divide quickly, including cancer cells and also healthy cells in the bone marrow, the hair follicles, the intestines, and the mouth. This can lead to hair loss, mouth sores, nausea, vomiting, numbness in the hands and feet, fatigue, and stomach pain. 

The side effects your child may experience depends on the type of chemotherapy drugs he or she receives and the duration of the treatment. Your child’s doctor may prescribe medications to treat nausea and boost levels of blood cells. Our team of specialists, including doctors, nurses, and wellness experts, provide medical, emotional, and psychological support to your child throughout treatment.

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