Background: Despite optimal multimodality limb-sparing therapy for extremity soft tissue sarcoma (STS), a significant number of patients develop distant metastasis. The objective of this study was to analyze patterns of metastatic disease and define prognostic factors for survival in a large group of patients followed prospectively at a single institution.
Methods: Between July 1, 1982, and June 30, 1996, all adult patients admitted to the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center with primary extremity sarcoma were treated and prospectively followed. Patients who developed distant metastases constituted the study group. Prognostic factors were analyzed for postmetastasis survival. These included both factors related to the primary tumor and factors related to the pattern of metastasis. Postmetastasis survival was modeled using the Kaplan-Meier method. Statistical significance was evaluated using the log rank test for univariate analysis and the Cox proportional hazards model for multivariate analysis.
Results: During the study period, the authors admitted and treated 994 patients with primary extremity STS. The median follow-up was 33 months. Distant metastasis developed in 230 patients (23%). Median survival after distant metastasis was 11.6 months. The lungs were the first metastatic site in 169 patients (73%). Other first sites of metastasis included the skin and soft tissues of the head and neck, trunk, and extremities. There was no statistically significant difference in survival between patients with pulmonary and those with nonpulmonary metastatic disease. In multivariate analysis, resection of metastatic disease, the length of the disease free interval, the presence of a preceding local recurrence, and patient age > 50 years all were significant predictors of postmetastasis survival. Other factors that defined the primary tumor, including histologic grade, depth, and microscopic margins, were not associated with postmetastasis survival.
Conclusions: Despite optimal multimodality therapy, 23% of the patients in this series with primary extremity sarcoma developed distant metastasis. Median survival after metastasis was approximately 1 year. After metastasis, the independent favorable factors that are associated with patient survival include resection of the metastases, a long disease free interval, the absence of preceding local recurrence, and patient age < 50 years. Although a definitive conclusion regarding the benefit of resection can be made only with a randomized clinical trial, these data suggest that resection of metastatic STS may contribute to patient survival, which in some cases may be long term.