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This information is produced and provided by the National Cancer Institute (NCI). The information in this topic may have changed since it was written. For the most current information, contact the National Cancer Institute via the Internet web site at http://cancer.gov or call 1-800-4-CANCER.
Ewing sarcoma is a type of tumor that forms in bone or soft tissue.
Ewing sarcoma is a type of tumor that forms from a certain kind of cell in bone or soft tissue. Ewing sarcoma may be found in the bones of the legs, arms, feet, hands, chest, pelvis, spine, or skull. Ewing sarcoma also may be found in the soft tissue of the trunk, arms, legs, head and neck, abdominal cavity, or other areas.
Ewing sarcoma is most common in adolescents and young adults.
Ewing sarcoma has also been called peripheral primitive neuroectodermal tumor, Askin tumor (Ewing sarcoma of the chest wall), extraosseous Ewing sarcoma (Ewing sarcoma in tissue other than bone), and Ewing sarcoma family of tumors.
Signs and symptoms of Ewing sarcoma include swelling and pain near the tumor.
These and other signs and symptoms may be caused by Ewing sarcoma or by other conditions. Check with your child's doctor if your child has any of the following:
Tests that examine the bone and soft tissue are used to diagnose and stage Ewing sarcoma.
Procedures that make pictures of the bones and soft tissues and nearby areas help diagnose Ewing sarcoma and show how far the cancer has spread. The process used to find out if cancer cells have spread within and around the bones and soft tissues is called staging.
In order to plan treatment, it is important to know if the cancer is in the area where it first formed or if it has spread to other parts of the body. Tests and procedures to detect, diagnose, and stage Ewing sarcoma are usually done at the same time.
The following tests and procedures may be used to diagnose or stage Ewing sarcoma:
A biopsy is done to diagnose Ewing sarcoma.
Tissue samples are removed during a biopsy so they can be viewed under a microscope by a pathologist to check for signs of cancer. It is helpful if the biopsy is done at the same center where treatment will be given.
The specialists (pathologist, radiation oncologist, and surgeon) who will treat the patient usually work together to decide where the needle should be placed or the biopsy incision should be made. This is done so that the biopsy doesn't affect later treatment such as surgery to remove the tumor or radiation therapy.
If there is a chance that the cancer has spread to nearby lymph nodes, one or more lymph nodes may be removed and checked for signs of cancer.
The following tests may be done on the tissue that is removed:
Certain factors affect prognosis (chance of recovery).
The factors that affect prognosis (chance of recovery) are different before and after treatment.
Before treatment, prognosis depends on:
After treatment, prognosis is affected by:
If the cancer recurs after initial treatment, prognosis depends on:
The results of diagnostic and staging tests are used to find out if cancer cells have spread.
The process used to find out if cancer has spread from where it began to other parts of the body is called staging. There is no standard staging system for Ewing sarcoma. The results of the tests and procedures done to diagnose and stage Ewing sarcoma are used to group the tumors into localized or metastatic.
Ewing sarcoma is described based on whether the cancer has spread from the bone or soft tissue in which the cancer began.
Ewing sarcoma is described as either localized or metastatic.
Localized Ewing sarcoma
The cancer is found in the bone or soft tissue in which it began and may have spread to nearby tissue, including nearby lymph nodes.
Metastatic Ewing sarcoma
The cancer has spread from the bone or soft tissue in which it began to other parts of the body. In Ewing tumor of bone, the cancer most often spreads to the lung, other bones, and bone marrow.
There are three ways that cancer spreads in the body.
Cancer can spread through tissue, the lymph system, and the blood:
Cancer may spread from where it began to other parts of the body.
When cancer spreads to another part of the body, it is called metastasis. Cancer cells break away from where they began (the primary tumor) and travel through the lymph system or blood.
The metastatic tumor is the same type of cancer as the primary tumor. For example, if Ewing sarcoma spreads to the lung, the cancer cells in the lung are actually Ewing sarcoma cells. The disease is metastatic Ewing sarcoma, not lung cancer.
Recurrent Ewing sarcoma is cancer that has recurred (come back) after it has been treated. The cancer may come back in the tissues where it first started or in another part of the body.
There are different types of treatment for children with Ewing sarcoma.
Different types of treatments are available for children with Ewing sarcoma. Some treatments are standard (the currently used treatment), and some are being tested in clinical trials. A treatment clinical trial is a research study meant to help improve current treatments or obtain information on new treatments for patients with cancer. When clinical trials show that a new treatment is better than the standard treatment, the new treatment may become the standard treatment.
Because cancer in children is rare, taking part in a clinical trial should be considered. Some clinical trials are open only to patients who have not started treatment.
Children with Ewing sarcoma should have their treatment planned by a team of health care providers who are experts in treating cancer in children.
Treatment will be overseen by a pediatric oncologist, a doctor who specializes in treating children with cancer. The pediatric oncologist works with other health care providers who are experts in treating children with Ewing sarcoma and who specialize in certain areas of medicine. These may include the following specialists:
Treatment for Ewing sarcoma may cause side effects.
For information about side effects that begin during treatment for cancer, see our Side Effects page.
Side effects from cancer treatment that begin after treatment and continue for months or years are called late effects. Late effects of cancer treatment may include the following:
Some late effects may be treated or controlled. It is important to talk with your child's doctors about the effects cancer treatment can have on your child. (See the PDQ summary on Late Effects of Treatment for Childhood Cancer for more information.)
Five types of standard treatment are used:
Chemotherapy is a cancer treatment that uses drugs to stop the growth of cancer cells, either by killing the cells or by stopping them from dividing. When chemotherapy is taken by mouth or injected into a vein or muscle, the drugs enter the bloodstream and can reach cancer cells throughout the body (systemic chemotherapy). When chemotherapy is placed directly into the cerebrospinal fluid, an organ, or a body cavity such as the abdomen, the drugs mainly affect cancer cells in those areas (regional chemotherapy). Combination chemotherapy is treatment using more than one anticancer drug.
Systemic chemotherapy is part of the treatment for all patients with Ewing tumors. It is often the first treatment given and lasts for about 6 to 12 months. Chemotherapy is often given to shrink the tumor before surgery or radiation therapy and to kill any tumor cells that may have spread to other parts of the body.
See Drugs Approved for Soft Tissue Sarcoma for more information.
Radiation therapy is a cancer treatment that uses high-energy x-rays or other types of radiation to kill cancer cells or keep them from growing. There are two types of radiation therapy:
External radiation therapy is used to treat Ewing sarcoma.
Radiation therapy is used when the tumor cannot be removed by surgery or when surgery to remove the tumor will affect important body functions or the way the child will look. It may be used to make the tumor smaller and decrease the amount of tissue that needs to be removed during surgery. It may also be used to treat any tumor that remains after surgery and tumors that have spread to other parts of the body.
Surgery is usually done to remove cancer that is left after chemotherapy or radiation therapy. When possible, the whole tumor is removed by surgery. Tissue and bone that are removed may be replaced with a graft, which uses tissue and bone taken from another part of the patient's body or a donor. Sometimes an implant, such as artificial bone, is used.
After the doctor removes all the cancer that can be seen at the time of the surgery, some patients may be given chemotherapy or radiation therapy after surgery to kill any cancer cells that are left. Treatment given after the surgery, to lower the risk that the cancer will come back, is called adjuvant therapy.
Targeted therapy is a type of treatment that uses drugs or other substances to identify and attack specific cancer cells without harming normal cells.
Monoclonal antibody therapy is a type of targeted therapy used in the treatment of recurrent Ewing sarcoma. It is being studied for the treatment of metastatic Ewing sarcoma. Monoclonal antibodies are made in the laboratory from a single type of immune system cell. These antibodies can identify substances on cancer cells or normal substances that may help cancer cells grow. The antibodies attach to the substances and kill the cancer cells, block their growth, or keep them from spreading. Monoclonal antibodies are given by infusion. They may be used alone or to carry drugs, toxins, or radioactive material directly to cancer cells.
New types of targeted therapy are being studied.
High-dose chemotherapy with stem cell rescue
High-dose chemotherapy with stem cell rescue is a way of giving high doses of chemotherapy to treat Ewing sarcoma and then replacing blood -forming cells destroyed by cancer treatment. Stem cells (immature blood cells) are removed from the blood or bone marrow of the patient and are frozen and stored. After chemotherapy is completed, the stored stem cells are thawed and given back to the patient through an infusion. These reinfused stem cells grow into (and restore) the body's blood cells. Chemotherapy with stem cell rescue is used to treat recurrent Ewing sarcoma.
New types of treatment are being tested in clinical trials.
This summary section describes treatments that are being studied in clinical trials. It may not mention every new treatment being studied. Information about clinical trials is available from the NCI website.
Chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) T-cell therapy
CAR T-cell therapy is a type of immunotherapy that changes the patient's T cells (a type of immune system cell) so they will attack certain proteins on the surface of cancer cells. T cells are taken from the patient and special receptors are added to their surface in the laboratory. The changed cells are called chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) T cells. The CAR T cells are grown in the laboratory and given to the patient by infusion. The CAR T cells multiply in the patient's blood and attack cancer cells. CAR T-cell therapy is being studied in the treatment of Ewing sarcoma that has recurred.
CAR T-cell therapy. A type of treatment in which a patient's T cells (a type of immune cell) are changed in the laboratory so they will bind to cancer cells and kill them. Blood from a vein in the patient's arm flows through a tube to an apheresis machine (not shown), which removes the white blood cells, including the T cells, and sends the rest of the blood back to the patient. Then, the gene for a special receptor called a chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) is inserted into the T cells in the laboratory. Millions of the CAR T cells are grown in the laboratory and then given to the patient by infusion. The CAR T cells are able to bind to an antigen on the cancer cells and kill them.
Patients may want to think about taking part in a clinical trial.
For some patients, taking part in a clinical trial may be the best treatment choice. Clinical trials are part of the cancer research process. Clinical trials are done to find out if new cancer treatments are safe and effective or better than the standard treatment.
Many of today's standard treatments for cancer are based on earlier clinical trials. Patients who take part in a clinical trial may receive the standard treatment or be among the first to receive a new treatment.
Patients who take part in clinical trials also help improve the way cancer will be treated in the future. Even when clinical trials do not lead to effective new treatments, they often answer important questions and help move research forward.
Patients can enter clinical trials before, during, or after starting their cancer treatment.
Some clinical trials only include patients who have not yet received treatment. Other trials test treatments for patients whose cancer has not gotten better. There are also clinical trials that test new ways to stop cancer from recurring (coming back) or reduce the side effects of cancer treatment.
Clinical trials are taking place in many parts of the country. Information about clinical trials supported by NCI can be found on NCI's clinical trials search webpage. Clinical trials supported by other organizations can be found on the ClinicalTrials.gov website.
Follow-up tests may be needed.
Some of the tests that were done to diagnose the cancer or to find out the stage of the cancer may be repeated. Some tests will be repeated in order to see how well the treatment is working. Decisions about whether to continue, change, or stop treatment may be based on the results of these tests.
Some of the tests will continue to be done from time to time after treatment has ended. The results of these tests can show if your child's condition has changed or if the cancer has recurred (come back). These tests are sometimes called follow-up tests or check-ups.
For information about the treatments listed below, see the Treatment Option Overview section.
Localized Ewing Sarcoma
Standard treatments for localized Ewing sarcoma include:
These treatments and the order they are given depend on the following:
Treatments being studied for localized Ewing sarcoma include:
Use our clinical trial search to find NCI-supported cancer clinical trials that are accepting patients. You can search for trials based on the type of cancer, the age of the patient, and where the trials are being done. General information about clinical trials is also available.
Metastatic Ewing Sarcoma
Standard treatments for metastatic Ewing sarcoma include:
These treatments and the order they are given depend on the following:
Treatments being studied for metastatic Ewing sarcoma include the following:
Recurrent Ewing Sarcoma
There is no standard treatment for recurrent Ewing sarcoma but treatment options may include the following:
These treatments and the order they are given depend on the following:
Treatment options being studied for recurrent Ewing sarcoma include the following:
For more information from the National Cancer Institute about Ewing sarcoma, see the following:
For more childhood cancer information and other general cancer resources, see the following:
Physician Data Query (PDQ) is the National Cancer Institute's (NCI's) comprehensive cancer information database. The PDQ database contains summaries of the latest published information on cancer prevention, detection, genetics, treatment, supportive care, and complementary and alternative medicine. Most summaries come in two versions. The health professional versions have detailed information written in technical language. The patient versions are written in easy-to-understand, nontechnical language. Both versions have cancer information that is accurate and up to date and most versions are also available in Spanish.
PDQ is a service of the NCI. The NCI is part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH). NIH is the federal government's center of biomedical research. The PDQ summaries are based on an independent review of the medical literature. They are not policy statements of the NCI or the NIH.
Purpose of This Summary
This PDQ cancer information summary has current information about the treatment of childhood Ewing sarcoma. It is meant to inform and help patients, families, and caregivers. It does not give formal guidelines or recommendations for making decisions about health care.
Reviewers and Updates
Editorial Boards write the PDQ cancer information summaries and keep them up to date. These Boards are made up of experts in cancer treatment and other specialties related to cancer. The summaries are reviewed regularly and changes are made when there is new information. The date on each summary ("Date Last Modified") is the date of the most recent change.
The information in this patient summary was taken from the health professional version, which is reviewed regularly and updated as needed, by the PDQ Pediatric Treatment Editorial Board.
Clinical Trial Information
A clinical trial is a study to answer a scientific question, such as whether one treatment is better than another. Trials are based on past studies and what has been learned in the laboratory. Each trial answers certain scientific questions in order to find new and better ways to help cancer patients. During treatment clinical trials, information is collected about the effects of a new treatment and how well it works. If a clinical trial shows that a new treatment is better than one currently being used, the new treatment may become "standard." Patients may want to think about taking part in a clinical trial. Some clinical trials are open only to patients who have not started treatment.
Clinical trials are listed in PDQ and can be found online at NCI's website. Many cancer doctors who take part in clinical trials are also listed in PDQ. For more information, call the Cancer Information Service 1-800-4-CANCER (1-800-422-6237).
Permission to Use This Summary
PDQ is a registered trademark. The content of PDQ documents can be used freely as text. It cannot be identified as an NCI PDQ cancer information summary unless the whole summary is shown and it is updated regularly. However, a user would be allowed to write a sentence such as "NCI's PDQ cancer information summary about breast cancer prevention states the risks in the following way: [include excerpt from the summary]."
The best way to cite this PDQ summary is:
PDQ® Pediatric Treatment Editorial Board. PDQ Ewing Sarcoma Treatment. Bethesda, MD: National Cancer Institute. Updated <MM/DD/YYYY>. Available at: https://www.cancer.gov/types/bone/patient/ewing-treatment-pdq. Accessed <MM/DD/YYYY>. [PMID: 26389350]
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Last Revised: 2018-07-09
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