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08 Sep 2021

New technologies to improve the diagnosis of sarcoma

  • VCCC Alliance

Collaborative efforts underway

A new initiative driven by the Research and Education Lead (R&E Lead) Sarcoma program is seeking to improve access to novel sarcoma diagnostic pipelines leading to better diagnoses and treatment options for patients with sarcoma. 

An inaugural meeting in August brought together pathologists with expertise in sarcoma from Victorian institutions, including St Vincent’s Hospital Melbourne, Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre, The Royal Children’s Hospital and Monash Health, in both the paediatric and adult sarcoma space. 

Hosted by VCCC Alliance R&E Lead, Sarcoma, Dr Jeremy Lewin from Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre, the goal was to establish a baseline for collaborative opportunities by sharing current practice. Dr Lewin said, “It is critical to develop systems for collaboration across the paediatric and adult sarcoma sector that create awareness and opportunity to access novel sarcoma diagnostic techniques. 

“This will hopefully translate into real tangible outcomes for patients including improving the ability to accurately diagnose sarcoma, as well as better outcomes.” 

Sarcomas are clinically challenging

Sarcomas are a heterogeneous and clinically challenging group of cancers. Although rare, they represent the second most common type of solid tumours in children and approximately 10 per cent of cancers diagnosed in the adolescent and young adult (AYA) years.  

A growing number of histological subtypes have been characterised to date, traditionally based on morphological and immunohistochemistry assessment supported by ancillary diagnostic techniques, including FISH and RT-PCR. However, this diagnostic workflow can lead to inconclusive results in a significant number of sarcoma cases. 

The primary driver for change is to improve accurate and timely sarcoma diagnoses and hence more appropriate treatment algorithms. Pathology laboratories across the VCCC Alliance and beyond, are investing in new technologies to improve the diagnosis of sarcoma patients both in the paediatric and adult sector.  

“Advances in cancer research and the development of new and sophisticated approaches to diagnostic testing, are rapidly transforming the landscape of sarcoma diagnosis.” - Dr Jeremy Lewin 

First meeting brings shared view to progress

The meeting resulted in experts having the ability to discuss current challenges in sarcoma diagnosis and to share their perspectives on the expansion of access to high-quality diagnostic expertise and technologies in sarcoma cancer care. 

The investment in new technologies was a topic of discussion along with novel immunohistochemistry stains, fluorescent in situ hybridisation probes, and novel molecular techniques (eg. NanoString nCounter, Targeted Solid Tumour NGS Fusion Panel).   

The meeting highlighted opportunities and next steps from participants and future, regular workshops are planned to refine these new collaborative opportunities. 

For more information, contact Dr Jasper de Boer, VCCC Alliance Program Manager. 

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