Is there a place for definitive radiotherapy in the treatment of unresectable soft-tissue sarcoma? A systematic review

Acta Oncol. 2022 Jun;61(6):720-729. doi: 10.1080/0284186X.2022.2066983. Epub 2022 May 15.


Background: Definitive external beam radiotherapy (EBRT) is an unusual treatment of unresectable soft-tissue sarcomas (STS). Recent technical innovations and physical advantages of particle therapies may improve results of this therapeutic option. The role of this review was to report the clinical results of photon- and particle-based EBRT in unresectable STS.

Material and methods: We performed a systematic review of the literature on Pubmed database to identify studies investigating the efficacy and safety of EBRT. The primary endpoint was local control (LC) and secondary endpoints were progression-free survival (PFS), overall survival (OS) and adverse events in a subset of patients with gross disease STS.

Results: We identified 29 studies involving 1409 patients (pts) evaluating photon (n = 18; 956 pts), proton (n = 1; 21 pts), carbon ion (n = 2; 152 pts), neutron (n = 7; 259 pts) or pion (n = 1; 21 pts) therapy. Definitive EBRT achieves valuable 5-year LC rates of 28-73% with photon and 52-69% with particle therapies. Most local failures (66-100%) occurred within 3 years. Long-term disease control can be achieved in a fraction of patients, with 5-year PFS and OS of 0-39% and 24.7-63%, respectively. The rate of severe adverse events was highly variable with photons, <15% in proton and carbon ion therapy, whereas 25 to 50% of patients treated with neutrons and pions presented severe AE. While a dose higher or equal 64 Gy seem to improve the prognosis, delivering a dose higher or equal 68 Gy dramatically increases severe adverse events.

Conclusion: Definitive EBRT with dose 64-66 Gy seems to be a safe and efficient treatment for unresectable STS. Future clinical trials should assess the potential of biomarkers of response, thus identifying patients that could benefit from local treatment.

Keywords: Unresectable; heavy ion radiotherapy; proton therapy; radiotherapy; soft tissue sarcoma.

Publication types

  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Humans
  • Protons
  • Radiotherapy Dosage
  • Radiotherapy, Adjuvant
  • Sarcoma* / radiotherapy
  • Soft Tissue Neoplasms*


  • Protons