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Sarcomas are a group of cancers that affect the supporting cells of the body found in bone, cartilage, muscle, fat, and ligaments. These vital cells help pull and hold our organ systems together. Soft tissue sarcomas, such as rhabdomyosarcoma, fibrosarcoma, and epithelioid sarcoma, along with bone sarcomas, such as Osteosarcoma and Ewing’s sarcoma, encompass just over 10% of all cancers affecting 15-29 year olds.
For children, adolescents, and young adults diagnosed with a sarcoma, gaining access to the latest treatments is a daunting challenge. Given the small number of patients afflicted with sarcomas each year, including just over 1,000 patients in the U.S. age 15-25 years old with soft tissue and bone sarcomas combined, only a limited number of centers have the expertise and access to the latest treatments currently being tested in clinical trials.
At the same time, critical research for the testing of new treatments for sarcomas is falling gravely behind the scientific pace and strides that have been made for treating many other types of cancers, especially those occurring in patients less than 15 years old. In fact, over the past 20 years there has been no improvement in prognosis for those in the 15-39 year old age group, whereas prognoses for older adults and young children have had steady yearly improvements.
With the generous support of the Reid R. Sacco Memorial Foundation, the Division of Hematology and Oncology established the Adolescent and Young Adult Cancer Program (AYA). The program is under the direction of Michael Isakoff, M.D., Assistant Professor of Pediatrics, and primary investigator for the Children's Oncology Group clinical trials at Connecticut Children's Medical Center. Dr. Isakoff is an expert in pediatric cancers, with a specific interest in sarcomas.
Dr. Isakoff and his colleagues in the Division of Hematology and Oncology at Connecticut Children's Medical Center believe that every person with cancer deserves to have access to the finest and most cutting-edge therapy available, and they seek to establish a program serving adolescents and young adults with cancer, with a focus on providing the best care for rare diagnoses such as sarcomas. The AYA Program focuses on providing patients ranging in age from 14 to 40 with access to the latest clinical trials via the Children's Oncology Group, thus contributing to the testing and validation of vital therapeutic strategies for the treatment of the disease. Dr. Michael Isakoff works directly with Dr. Eric Silverstein in close collaboration for treatment of pediatric and young adults with musculoskeletal cancers.