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Rhabdomyosarcoma Overview

Rhabdomyosarcoma (RMS) is a soft tissue tumor that is relatively uncommon, and treating this disease can be complex. It is essential to choose a medical facility and team that is knowledgeable and experienced with RMS in children. At the Hemato-Oncology Division of Sheba Medical Center in Israel, our multidisciplinary doctors offer cutting-edge therapies and techniques to treat rhabdomyosarcoma. Our pediatric oncologists, hematologists, and other specialists have undergone training at premier cancer centers worldwide, and we use our frontline expertise to custom-design every child’s treatment program.

We are committed to holistic healthcare, especially when treating our young patients. We consider the individual child’s comfort and overall well-being – both physical and psychological –to make personalized medical decisions. Our compassionate team believes in open communication between the doctors, child, and family, so that you fully understand the condition and always know what to expect.

Recently, diagnosis and treatment has progressed to combine testing in the field of molecular biology along with conventional methods. At Sheba, we use these advanced tests to aid in both diagnosing the disease and directing the drug therapies so they are custom tailored for each individual patient – and for each stage of the disease.

Molecular biology testing includes methods such as:

  • FISH
  • PCR
  • Next generation sequencing, such as gene panel sequencing (DNA and RNA), mutation profile characterization, methylation profile and response markers for immunotherapies.

Altogether, our approach is one of precision medicine (also called personalized medicine), based on a deep understanding of the biological responses underlying the disease. We interpret all test results cautiously and stringently in order to enable a highly informed selection of innovative treatments.

Our Hemato-Oncology Division is characterized by a specialized interest in applying precision medicine for bone and soft tissue sarcomas. As a rule, we strive to customize the most effective treatment program for each individual patient.

Rhabdomyosarcoma - Sheba Medical Center

About Rhabdomyosarcoma

Rhabdomyosarcoma is the most common soft-tissue sarcoma in children, yet it is still rare. Only about 250 children per year are diagnosed with RMS in the United States, and more than half of these cases are in kids younger than 10 years old. Because this cancer originates from embryonal cells, it is much more common in childhood, although it sometimes occurs in adults.

What is rhabdomyosarcoma?

Rhabdomyosarcoma (RMS) is a tumor that develops in the body’s soft tissues; these are the tissues that support, connect, or surround your organs and other body structures. Very early in the life of an embryo, rhabdomyoblast cells start to form. These cells, which eventually grow into muscles, are the ones that can turn into RMS.

RMS is most typically located in the head, neck, arms, legs, urinary and reproductive organs, and trunk (chest and abdomen). However, the tumors can also be found in places where you have little or no skeletal muscle, such as the prostate, bile duct system, or middle ear.

What are the risk factors for rhabdomyosarcoma?

In the majority of cases, the cause of rhabdomyosarcoma is unknown. However, RMS usually has some type of chromosome abnormality or mutation in the tumor cells. Possible risk factors include:
  • Age – it is most common in children younger than 10 years old
  • Gender – it is slightly more common in boys than in girls
  • Genetic conditions – having certain rare inherited conditions or having a family history of these conditions raises the risk for RMS, such as:
  • - Li-Fraumeni syndrome
  • - Beckwith-Wiedemann syndrome
  • - Neurofibromatosis type 1 (von Recklinghausen disease)
  • - Costello syndrome
  • - Noonan syndrome
  • Exposures before birth – some studies suggest that exposure to x-rays before birth, or parental use of drugs such as marijuana and cocaine is linked to a higher risk for RMS in children

Whatare the symptoms of rhabdomyosarcoma?

It is usual for your child not to experience any symptoms of RMS until the tumor has grown very large. Because this cancer can begin almost anywhere in the body, the symptoms of RMS vary widely between individuals. The particular symptoms are largely dependent on where the tumor is located, its size, and if it has spread.

  • Tumors located in the neck, chest, back, arm, leg, or groin (including the testicles), may first present with a lump or swelling. This lump may be red and painful.
  • Tumors in the ear or nasal sinuses can cause a headache, sinus congestion and pain, an earache, and nosebleeds.
  • Tumors in the abdomen or pelvis can lead to abdominal pain, vomiting, or constipation
  • Tumors around the eye can make the eye bulge or lead to the appearance of cross-eye. It may also affect vision.
  • Tumors in the bladder or prostate can cause blood in the urine, while a tumor in the vagina can cause vaginal bleeding. These tumors can grow large enough to cause problems with urination or bowel movements.

How many types of rhabdomyosarcoma are there?

It is critical to classify and stage the type of RMS in order to determine the best treatment options. There are 2 main types of childhood RMS, along with some less common types.

  1. Embryonal rhabdomyosarcoma (ERMS): this type usually occurs before age 6, but can happen in older children too. It is generally located in the head and neck area, as well as in the urinary and reproductive organs. There are two subtypes of ERMS: botryoid and spindle cell rhabdomyosarcomas, which usually have a better prognosis than the more common form of ERMS.
  2. Alveolar rhabdomyosarcoma (ARMS): this type can affects all age groups, but it comprises more cases of RMS in older children than it does in younger children. ARMS is usually faster growing than ERMS, and tends to occur in the large muscles of the arms, legs, and trunk.

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Sheba Medical Center provides innovative, personalized medical care to patients from around the world. We are the largest, most comprehensive hospital in the Middle East and dedicated to providing advanced and compassionate medicine for everyone. We welcome all cases, including the rarest and the most challenging. Our medical teams collaborate to provide the best possible health outcomes. From your initial inquiry through the long-term follow-up care, we are here for you.

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