Sarcoma UK Voices – The Big Conversation

Sarcoma UK are today holding their first Voices event.  ‘Changing the landscape for sarcoma’ AKA The Big Conversation.


An early start for me to travel from London to Birmingham for a 9am start.  Eeek that’s a time of day I try to avoid and I can report that the only others I spotted as I ventured to the tube line was 1 dog walker, 1 jogger and the binmen!

If I’m honest, I wasn’t sure what to expect from today. I’ll do my best below to summarise for you.

9-10am – Registration.  I was very pleased to see some familiar faces and be able to catch up with them, find out how they are, what’s happening in their lives and receive/give a few hugs too!  I so value the camaraderie between patients, carers and patient/carer advocates.  The positive actions of each person attending and sadly often news of those who have passed away.

10-13:00 – The Current Landscape for Sarcoma

Welcome – Lindsey Bennister and Roger Wilson

I have attached links to the presentations given however have also added a few of the notes/highlights that I wrote down during the day.

Key challenges in sarcomaPresentation 1 – Professor Rob Grimer, Professor of Orthopaedic Oncology at Royal Orthopaedic Hospital Birmingham; Sarcoma UK trustee

As reported in the Mail newspaper – 1 in 4 cancers are missed or misdiagnosed in the UK.  However the headline they omitted was – 90% of sarcomas are missed or misdiagnosed in the UK.

1% of radiotherapy patients may get a radio-induced osteosarcoma in later life.

85% of people with 4 of the following ‘signs’ will be a sarcoma:
– lump larger than 5cm
– increasing in size
– deed to the deep fascia
– pain
– any recurrence of a previously excised lump.

Only 15% of sarcoma patients make it onto the 2 week wait rule.

Average time that people live with symptoms BEFORE visiting a doctor for sarcoma is 1.5 years.

Shocking results that younger people don’t tell their parents/teachers/friends about lumps until they have to!  Speak out about lumps – the earliest they are diagnosed they can be excised and treated.

Rob also spoke about a campaign that was carried out with GPs and golf balls. 988818_630607356993015_844328854_nThe premise was to alert GPs that any lump bigger than a golf ball (42mm) should have a diagnosis at a specialist sarcoma centre.  Help spread the word!

The sarcoma patient experience (findings from the National Cancer Patient Experience Survey) – Presentation 2 – Reg Race, Quality Health

Reg talked about the changes that have been influenced by the National Cancer Patient Experience Survey and some of the information that was highlighted by the results.  For the most part the attached presentation slides are self-explanatory but the main highlights were:

Patients with a named cancer nurse specialist have a better prognosis.  We need to ensure that within the NHS CNSs are available to all.

Did you know you were entitled to free prescriptions when undergoing treatment for cancer?  Most don’t but the difference in cost to a patient can be crucial to them keeping up with the drug treatment.

Not enough information about sarcoma available AND given to patients. How can we improve this?

Sarcoma patients fare badly in referral and diagnosis times.  More awareness needs to be made to the public but also referral routes for the professionals.

There is still a large (unresourced) quantity of emotional and psychological aspects to a sarcoma diagnosis.

Education for the younger population to be ‘body aware’, open to speak with adults about concerns and to report lumps and bumps when they first are noticed.

Some improvements have been made and we, collectively, need to continue to get changes made.

NHS sarcoma services: how are sarcoma services set up in the new NHS? –  Presentation 3 – Professor Jeremy Whelan, Professor of Cancer Medicine & Consultant Medical Oncologist at The London Sarcoma Service, University College Hospital; Chair of the Sarcoma Clinical Reference Group

This presentation (see attached) shows in detail the structure (as it stands today) for the NHS within the new ‘world’.  This may well change.  However it’s clear from the slides that it’s complex, there are a great deal of aspects to consider and there are voices much louder than the sarcoma and rare cancer ones.  We need to ensure that we are not forgotten.  That our pathway is as robust as that of other more common illnesses.

Maximising the voice of sarcoma patients and carers in changing the current landscape –  Presentation 4 – Derek Stewart OBE, Chair of Throat Cancer Foundation; Associate Director for Involvement in National Institute for Health Research, Clinical Research Network UK

Derek, as always, gave a truly engaging presentation.  Derek spoke about the importance and value of the patient/carer voice.  The various places that you can be involved and the level of involvement that you may wish to offer.  There is much more available than there ever was and don’t be put off and assume it will become a full time job!  Some committees and boards only meet twice a year.  Others more often.  Some roles can be done by email or online feedback and others require you to attend offices.  Some simply by speaking about sarcoma or offering to drop in leaflets to local medical facilities.

The important message however is that no matter how you are involved, your voice is crucial to ensuring improvement and changes for the sarcoma landscape.

14-16:15 – Changing the Landscape for Sarcoma

There were four workshops arranged for the afternoon and we were each asked prior to attending the day to choose two to attend.

Supporting others/protecting yourself – practice techniques – Jo Ham

I had chosen this session as I have, within the past 4 years, supported others, spoken at events and participated in conferences without thinking about the impact it has on me.  Of course I’m happy to give of myself whenever asked however often ‘retelling’ my story or delving into my experience can take me back to a place I never wanted to return.  Supporting others I’d like to be better at, listening without offering answers or advice is something that I know I can improve upon.  Lastly, loss.  Losing friends to cancer, whether they be people I’ve known for years or know because of my diagnosis, is incredibly tough.  Learning how to manage those emotions but not to switch off and stop feeling is also something I’m aware of needing.

Jo Ham, the facilitator for this session started by turning the workshop heading on it’s head.  She explained that we should protect ourselves BEFORE helping others.  A little like the oxygen masks on a plane – fix your own before helping anyone else!

Jo explained some techniques to protect yourself relating to anxiety, relaxation and breathing.  Noticing anxiety appearing and how to take control of it.  The A-W-A-R-E technique:  Accept the anxiety; Watch the anxiety; Act with the anxiety; Repeat the above steps; Expect the best.

She explained about Dr Siegal’s hand model of the brain and how to use it effectively.  Here’s a great clip

Breathing into the diaphragm and counting… in for 7 and out for 11.  The 7/11 technique.

Below is a picture with a couple of the exercise notes.  You should be able to click on the picture to enlarge and read.

Recently Updated3We then did a short exercise about ‘reflective listening’ to help us support others.

A very useful workshop but indeed way too short in time to really be effective.  Many of the exercises and principles were similar to ones I’ve learnt at Penny Brohn Cancer Caring Centre in Bristol.  I was pleased when another workshop attendee suggested that people should get in touch with Penny Brohn and attend a Living Well course.  Within my feedback and a conversation with Lindsey Bennister, I also suggested a collaborative event with Penny Brohn to host a Living Well course.

The power of your personal story: how to tell your story to raise awareness and bring about change – Graham Bound

Graham’s introduction to this workshop was to tell us about his experience with sharing his story, raising awareness for Sarcoma UK and the profile of Sarcoma generally.  His background is as a writer ( and therefore has experience of dealing with written publications and telling your story.  Graham explained his ‘journey’ and how valued a patient/carer experience is in so many ways.  He spoke about how to write or be interviewed for a piece, the pros and cons, pitfalls and tips and tricks.

The main point was to ensure that we not only mention cancer but our types of rare cancer, Sarcoma and the charity Sarcoma UK in as many appropriate places as possible.

Graham’s account was very insightful, from the point of someone who has used the written word to speak about his experience and raise awareness.  I wonder though if this workshop should be co-hosted by a media professional who can provide small vignettes and tips and tricks to work with the media – TV, radio and written word.

Final Plenary – Lindsey Bennister and Roger Wilson

I don’t think I was alone in wondering where the day had gone.  Seriously it had flown by in what seems like minutes.  The closing plenary reflected the same.

Recently Updated4

A wonderful day, too short in time, lots covered and lots to take forward to making it an annual event.  Clearly it was a valued day by so many people.  People at differing stages of their experiences and journeys and I hope one where all attendees came away with ‘action points’, clarification and new friends.  I also hope the ‘professionals’ present also learnt from their day with patients/carers.

Sarcoma SPAEN Conference – Day 2

Dr Rachel Brindley (Clinical Psychologist) and Elaine Stewart (Cancer Support Specialist), London Maggie’s Cancer Centre
Morning Talk – What to do when treatment comes to an end? – Practical, emotional and psychological issues

What’s it like to be facing this diagnosis in your country?
What are the challenges?

  • Majority of people say they weren’t offered support.  But the search for information helped however it was their way of coping which might not be right for others.
  • Misunderstanding of what palliative and hospice care is.  Perhaps the communication isn’t good enough to understand what options are.  Discussions between Patient and Dr need to be better to understand the options but also to think about what is the job of an oncologist, palliative care, hospice etc.  Learning a new language.

What are the supports?
What are the main psychological issues that people with advanced disease face?

  • Living with uncertainty.  Realise the disease is progressing and recurrences but not knowing and living along side the disease whilst maintaining a quality of life.
  • Significant adjustment process that needs supporting.  Adjusting to the knowledge of advanced disease but finding your new place.
  • Fear of future of family if I die?

Ripple effect of cancer:
Medical – treatment effects, nutritional needs, physical
Quality of life – Sleep, leisure activity, shopping, socialising (eg meals)
Relationships – Changing roles, sexuality…
Difficult emotions – Low mood, anxiety, guilt, shame, anger (at disease, at family at God)
Self Image – Body image, self-esteem, confidence
Existential–Spiritual – Meaning of life, create a legacy, purpose…
Financial/Legal – Work status, holiday insurance…

Q – Psychological support to the physicians?
A – It’s also a burden on the clinicians and medical team.  Is this why they’re not best to share bad news.

Fears and questions about death and dying?
What are some of the fears?
What do people want to know?
What is it like talking about these?

Can be victims of complementary and alternative therapy?

Italian Dr shared a story – Shocked on his very first day of work in new role in LA, he was taken into patient’s room.  Colleague starts talking.. in next few hours/days explains respiratory and cardiac arrest is near.  We can resuscitate and will only delay a few days.  Shocked about how brutal they were with the patient.
In Italy the percentage of patients with this kind of information is only 1% or less that are given details about death and dying.  In Italy many patients don’t want to know they are going to die.  Physicians problems start much earlier than this point.

Very individual choice about knowing what is going on.. time to clear things, discuss with relatives, friends etc think about funeral and future of family.

Patient choice… has to be a sensitive and individual choice by patient.

When do you discuss?
Again very individual to find the time to discuss.  Discuss in part.   Listen to learn what the other person needs to hear.

Fears about death and dying
Fears about dying:
1.     Fear of the process of dying
2.     Fear of the consequences of death for loved ones
3.     Existential fear of death itself

Planning Ahead
What does this mean to you?
What would be helpful for you to think about?
What resources are available to help you to plan ahead?

  • Comment from member of the audience: for many in the UK we have never experienced death in the first 40 or so years of our life.   Death isn’t talked about.
  • Comment from another member of the audience: – Clinician discussions are often very different and difficult.  Training for clinicians and learning to signpost and be honest to refer.

Stages of Grief – Kubler-Ross
Denial -> Anger -> Bargaining -> (Anxiety) -> Depression -> Acceptance
Not a case of working through but cycling back.  Perhaps anxiety is missing on the diagram?
Perhaps should be ‘Not knowing’ at the beginning of diagram.
Some people may never get to the Acceptance phase but back and forth earlier on –ie they’re not able to accept death.
Perhaps include Guilt

Close involvement with people at end of life involves managing complex medical problems and working with high levels of emotional distress

Consider the impact that working with people with advanced disease may have on you and other professionals.

1.     What signs would you want to be alerted to in
a.     Yourself?
b.     Others?
2.     What strategies do you feel would be helpful/important in preventing and managing these?

The heart must first pump blood to itself” – S.L. Shapiro
Support staff teams
Opportunities to debrief and reflect after difficult/distressing incidents
Opportunities to discuss what went well
Peer or individual supervision
Access to training, appropriate information
Time – to reflect on work, and for own needs
Feedback from senior management: positive, constructive
Balance between work and home life.

How might you be able to carry on some of these conversations/ideas when you get home?



Barbara Dore. Chair, Gist Support UK, SPAEN
How to Organise Patient Group Meetings

Think about and objectives for patient meeting.


  • Information/Education
  • Exchange between patients
  • Support (you are not alone)
  • Patient empowerment
  • Relationships with
    • Experts who may speak at meetings
    • Industry experts.
    • If near clinic/training/university then perhaps invite team/students etc.
  • Reasons to donate (not just in terms of money.  Can also be their time).
  • Finding volunteers

Session formats

  • Lecture presentation
  • Workshops
  • Case studies
  • Panel discussions
  • New experiences (yoga…)
  • Background sessions psychological support etc)
  • Vary the pace of the meeting during the day/meeting
  • No more than 2 hours without a break.
  • Networking time!


  • Consider the audience
    • Previous feedback
    • Newcomers/experienced
  • Variety of subjects – from the academic, technical and practical
  • Structure the day – after lunch spot needs interactive and care in planning.
  • Interaction keeps the audience engaged.
  • Brief the speaker as to content
    • Ask them if they want time cues
  • Reminder 1 week beforehand
  • Prepare some questions for Q&A
  • Write and thank speakers afterwards


  • Budget
  • Site visit
  • Accessibility
    • Travel easy?
    • Disabled access
    • Car parking?
  • Layout – flow
  • Resources
    • A/v
    • Poster display
    • Flip charts
  • Registration desk.
    • Name labels,
    • programs
  • Signposting to meeting
  • Refreshments (every 2-2.5hrs)
  • Networking

Staff during the meeting

  • Registration Desk
  • Assistance to guests
  • Passing microphones around
  • Collecting evaluation form
  • Taking note from the meeting report
  • Distributing papers (Agenda etc)
  • Photographing
  • Getting Contact details
  • Circulating and meetings/ welcoming all participants
  • Getting photograph permission

Announcing the meeting

  • Inform and invite all attendees
  • Experts physicians nurses clinic
  • Invitation letters/leaflets posters
  • Invite by Email postal delivery, Facebook, twitter, website, email group
  • Press
  • Online calendar
  • Continuity slides.  Welcoming slide before presentation and also slide for lunch or welcome back to the afternoon session.

The Day

  • Meet and Greet
  • Network in Breaks
  • Feedback?
  • Think about next time.



Roger Wilson and Claire Kelleher, Sarcoma UK
Patient Group Survey

Why do we do questionnaires?

  • need to get information
  • need to get opinions
  • experiences
  • often get new ideas

Need to be quite clear about objectives for survey.

Sarcoma UK is a patient led organisation.  Likes to involve patients in any initiative and involvement.   Part of Information Standard process is you must involve target participants ie patients.  Done by various means, feedback or through email, telephone, speak to people at support groups etc.

Clear objectives in mind when thinking about questionnaire.
Who do you want to contact?  Patients?  Carers

  • How will you contact them?
  • How are you going to find them?
  • How will they respond?
  • How will you record numbers in a meeting and is there any value?
  • Do you need documented or formal responses?

Once you’ve got data from responses what will you do with those replies?  Putting the data from the questionnaire into a spreadsheet for analysis is time-consuming.

  • How will you handle their replies and analyse the responses?
  • Once you have an analysis what are you going to do with it?

Got to have these things sorted in your mind before you start the survey process.  Otherwise it may be past its use by date by the time you use the analysis.

Claire – How we’ve used our surveys.  At British Sarcoma Group Conference in February we asked specifically about written information.
Asked the group in workshop (patients, clinicians and CNSs) what they thought of information (using Macmillan and Cancer Research UK’s written info). Most people said too complex and difficult to understand ie the lesson learnt use simplest terms that we can.
Negative feedback re glossaries – most people in the workshops found it difficult to flit back to glossary rather than explaining what a word means as they go along.

Survey about information and support – what info have you found? When did you receive it?  Etc… so Sarcoma UK can understand what patients are experiencing and better support patients as they should be.

Collate research data.  One reason why survey used?
Use methodologies and tools that have been validated academically.  So that the data can be taken seriously by professional bodies (wherever possible).

One of the tools that is most readily available is the EQ5D which looks at quality of life.

Is this form truly useful for cancer/sarcoma patients?

Currently working with Royal Marsden for sarcoma patients with advanced cancer.

Claire – Example of how patients’ information can be used within gynae-sarcomas.
There is a gap of information around this type of sarcoma.
People upon diagnosis not given information… there is very little.
Sarcoma UK are developing a booklet.
They have an information review panel (both patient review panel and a professional review panel).
All information goes through the process first with the professional panel looking for inaccuracies.
Next to the patient review panel – is it easy to understand? Is it the information they want to see?

One problem we had is that there isn’t that many people we have on the information review panel with this type of sarcoma.
We put a call out to the women we knew about to invite them to be involved in the review panel.
In January we’re holding a Webinar (with Maggies) to offer information and advice to ladies with gynae-sarcomas and also to gather information about what they would like to include in the information leaflet.

The information leaflet is then due to be published early next year and will be available on the Sarcoma UK website to download.

We do get it wrong as well…
80 responses.
People had written all over the form and written on the back of the form.  Realised they were only scratching the surface with this survey.  Didn’t look at it well enough or in depth.
Hadn’t expected to also see hospital doctors lack of sarcoma information as well as GP (which had been expected).
If we’d been able to test the survey with 10 or 12 patients beforehand, Roger thinks a very different survey would have gone out.

Ended up writing a three page analysis of this survey which frankly was a load of waffle as the real conclusions had no data to support them as it was supplied anecdotally in the margins of the form rather than as answers to not very well worded questions.

Lesson – get objectives right before you start and test the questions to ensure you are asking the right questions in the right way to the right people.

Q – how would you deal with when a patient asks for privacy in answering a questionnaire.
A – Responses are anonymous.  Don’t ask for other personal information that might identify someone.
If someone doesn’t want to give information… they don’t have to.


Ian Judson, The Royal Marsden Hospital UK
Marco Fiore, Istituto Nazionale Tumori Milan, Italy
Strategies for Metastasis in Sarcomas and Gist – Perspective of oncologist and surgeon

50% of people diagnosed with sarcoma will NEVER have another problem after primary treatment.


Ian Judson – Sarcoma Unit, Royal Marsden
Management of metastatic disease – soft tissue sarcoma and GIST

What are the roles of chemotherapy for soft tissue sarcomas?

  • Palliation of advanced local or metastatic disease
  • Pre-operative treatment for large tumours?
  • Adjuvant chemo in large, high grade, extremity tumours?

Palliative treatment of advance disease.  Crudely if you lump all sarcoma together the median survival isn’t great. Probably about a year.

We did a trial in the EORTC combination v single agent – the 62012 trial

Slight improvement in progression free survival but no significant improvement in overall survival.

How can we use this data?

  • If objective is response – tumour shrinkage or remove specific symptom (pressure on nerve) then justified in using combination therapy.
  • If objective is palliation, then no real value in using combination therapy… single agent treatment (consequential if needed) is probably best.

What subtypes are particularly sensitive to chemotherapy?

  • Most sensitive subtypes appear to be
    • Synovial sarcoma
    • Myxoid/round cell liposarcoma
    • Uterine leiomysosarcoma
    • Other?
  • But N.B. – data are sparse on individual disease outcomes.

Other effective agents.  We use a combination of agents depending on the sarcoma type.  But we’re dealing with small numbers and difficult to assess.

Hormone sensitive sarcomas

  • Endometrial stromal sarcomas & some low grade ER/PR+ leiomyosarcomas, respond to oestrogen deprivation
  • In premonopausal women GnRH agonists or oophorectomy
  • In postmenopausal women – aromatase inhibitors
  • We usually use letrozole

When is chemo unhelpful?

What’s the future?

Molecular biological information that we can translate into new treatment.
In part:
Some tumours, types, mutations can be difficult to treat or apply a ‘rule’.

Some progress with translocations (chromosome swapping) ie synovial sarcoma translocations
Chromosomal amplifications – ie when it copies and becomes a driver for the sarcoma.

Median survival is improving as we discover more.   We have more drugs being used.  Differing regimens.

Range of treatments available for treating metastatic sarcoma.

PHYLLODES – COULD BE SARCOMA OR CARCINOMA (hence confusion about where it sits in medical teams)


Marco Fiore, Instituto Nazionale Tumori Milan, Italy
Strategies for metastases in Sarcomas and GIST – A surgeon’s perspective

Looking at surgeries about how we run trials.
Conclusion should perhaps be that it is about patient choice and perhaps the studies should be addressed retrospectively in order to obtain patient randomisation.  Patient choice needs to be made with sufficient information to make an informed choice.




Jean Yves Blay, Centre Leon Barard Lyon, France
Update on new and ongoing trials

There are many clinical trials….

  • You understood for clinical trials that we are dealing with a very well structured setting.  The majority of trials are done in multiple continents.
  • We are moving from a situation doing trials in all sarcoma sub-sets to a situation where we are targeting histologies.  This is changing the landscape an adds a level of complexity.  The end of the story will be not only focusing on sub-types but molecular sub-types within.  Results in small number of patients and work collectively globally.  It will not be possible to demonstrate the use of an agent

3 messages

  • Global approach
  • Histology Driven
  • Very important in know randomised trials, approval of the agent and prove that something is superior to another.

Bone sarcomas

  • Osteosarcoma
    • OS2006
      • Exploring bisphosphonates in a randomised setting
      • FSG, EORTC, others
    • Euramos 2?  5 years to do the first trial.  What next in Euramos 2 trial?
    • Country specific trials.
  • Ewing
    • Ewing 2012 (FP7)
      • Comparing VDC/IE to VIDE (comparing US regimen to the European regimen)
      • Exploring bisphosphonates
    • EuroEwing trial
      • Piloted by the German group.
  • PoC studies in Ewing/Osteo
    • Mifamurtide, linsitinib (EuroSARC WP6)
  • Chrondrosarcoma
    • PoC study of neoadjuvant mTOR inhibition
    • Hh inhibitors (vismodegib) negative
    • EuroSarc projects
  • Chordoma
  • Trials on mTOR, TKI (imatinib, sorafenib) completed

Soft tissue sarcomas

  • Neoadjuvant
    • Histology tailored treatment in EuroSARC (WP5)
      • ISG, GEIS, PSG, FR

Trying to address if we should give the same treatment.

  • Adjuvant chemotherapy
    • IRCI Uterine LMS 0 vs 4GT/4Doxo
      • US, EU (GOG, EORTC, UK)

Unsolved question in soft tissue sarcoma.  This is not the standard for all patients and we do not know who will or won’t benefit.
IRCI – this was the first trial in the US.. no treatment –v- combination treatment. It’s hoped it will answer the important question on this sub-type.

  • Surgery
    • Prospective trial of no treatment in desmoids (FR)

Phase 2 study of no treatment.  Often not mentioned.  This is where desmoids are not affecting other things.

  • (Neo)Adjuvant radiotherapy
    • Retroperitoneal sarcoma (EuroSARC WP4) exploring in selected localisation of disease.
    • Vortext tiral (UK)
    • SAR01 trial (FR) no radiotherapy with wide margin

Largest clinical trials are in the advanced phase:
Advanced phase – randomised trials
First line

  • Palifosfamide (closed Ziopharm sponsor)
  • TRS trial (Pharammar, completed) – Needs further investigation.
  • NCRI GT vs Doxo (UK) – Recruiting well – 220 out of 250 patients.  ASCO 2015
  • EorTC Trust Trial (closed for accrual).  Exploring agent in first line setting.
  • Dox +/-TH302 (ongoing, Threshold sponsor)
  • IRCI EORTC/UK in HGUS  High grade undifferentiated uterine sarcoma.
  • Taxol+/-Bevacizumab (FR, Angiosarcoma) – Close to completion of accrual.

Only a few trials are addressing in histological sub-types.

Subsequent lines

  • Trabectedine vs DTIC (JNJ, US, L-sarcomas)
  • Eribuline vs DTIC (Eisai, World, L-sarcomas)
  • Sunitinib vc cediranib (US NCI, ASPS)
  • Regorafenib vs – 0 (FR, all comers)
  • CDK4 inhibitor vs 0 in (US/World WD/DD LPS)
  • MV vsPazopanib (FR, Desmoids)
  • Cediranib vs BSC (UK ASPS)

Phase 1/11 trials

  • Subset specific (right question?)
  • Target specific (phase I/II)
  • Molecular immunotherapy.  Contrasting what was done in the 90s.  Watch in next 2 years to see new trials of this kind.
  • Passive immunotherapy.  Means antibody which is labelled with a nesotope and recognised.
  • Treated the driver target across histotypes

EORTC Network of Core Institutions
EORTC protocol 9010 (EudraCT number 2011-001988-52 NCT01524926)

Probably the future of what we are going to do in sarcoma.

Q&A Session
Q – Moving much more to molecular selection of patients in clinical trials.  Is the pathologist going to become more important in making the selection decisions.
A – The role of the pathologist is central.  This question is debated often.  How do we link pathologist to molecular biologist?  Research to routine is very challenging.

We need to bring up a budget wall with people talking to each other and exchanging information.  Challenging not sure.  If a pathologist is a real molecular biologist you’re fortunate!

Short profiles of sarcoma subtypes

Hans Keulen, Chordoma Foundation NL

Brief introduction into Chordoma and introduction to clinical trials
What is Chordoma?

  • Malignant tumour arising from the bone of the skull base and spine
  • It is a cancer and has a tenancy to be locally invasive and a tenancy to spread (metastasize)
  • It’s origin is traced to remnants of primitive embryonal cells called the “notochord”


  • 5 % of the primary bone tumours are located in the spine
  • 8% of the spinal tumours are Chordomas
  • Incidence <0,7-1:1,000.000
  • Grows at skull base (Clivus, 35%), sacrum (50%) other spinal (15%)
  • Strikes people of all ages, most diagnosed in the 50s for sacral and 40s for other types
  • More frequent in men than women.

Phylum Chordata: Subphylum vertebrata

  • 550 million years ago Chordates emerged from the common ancestor
  • Presence of the notochord is the most prominent feature of the Phylum Chordata
  • Notochord is ectodermal and guides developed

Fate of the notochord

  • The notochord is essential for the creation of the embryo
  • Usually disappeared 10 weeks after gestation
  • The notochord should not be there at the latest after 10 years.
  • There are a lot of factors that can arrest the disappearance.

Recent discovery is that a certain gene called Brachyury (t-box gene).  Essential for development.  Absence is lethal.

Notochord and brachyury
Brachyury is over expressed in chordomas and many epithelial cancers.
Brachyury is expressed in chordomas but not in other bone and cartilage tumours.
Approximately 10% of chordoma patients it is familial.
Duplication of brachyrury gene has been observed in familial chrodomas.
When you inhibit brachyury in chordoma patients you will stop it growing.

Recent discovery from UCL –

97% of chordoma patients harbor at least one allele of the common nonsynomymous SNP rs2305089 in the brachyury gene

Research is imperative.

Benign notochordal cell tumour (BNCT)
Should anything be done at this point?

Current treatment of chordoma
First line is still surgery.  Piece by piece or enbloc depending on location.
Sometimes stabilisation of the spine is required.
Radiation therapy is a high dose (usually 3x dose of breast cancer)  Specialised types, mostly proton beam or carbon ion.


  • Prognosis for chordoma patients Is not that good.
  • High rate of recurrence
  • A lot of people get a lot of mutilating surgeries.
  • Sacral chordoma usually in a wheelchair
  • Survival rate has gone up but sometimes at a cost of added mobility.

In the past we saw only 10% of mets.  However recently mets in sacral chordoma has recently been recorded that these are as high as 30%.  There is doubt if this might be due to surgery not being good enough – possibly caused by seeding.
No chemotherapy
20-20% cure rate.

Median was 6.29 years

Remarks – survival is increasing to 7-9 years, but with increased morbidity from surgery and radiation.

Chordoma vs Chondrosarcoma
Mistaken on routine histology
Epithelial v Mesenchymal origin
Much better for chrondrosarcoma (gr1)
Misdiagnosis is less common now.

Recent developments
Using Carbon Ion instead of Proton radiation particularly in sacral chordomas night even replace surgery as first line treatment (ECCO 2013)

Radiation before or during surgery offers promising results with respect to recurrence and seeding.

Increasing number of target identified for trials with existing drugs.

Other trials….. not just drugs
e.g. Carbon Ion vs Proton Beam radiation – HIT Heidelberg

Carbon Ion vs Proton Beam radiation – HIT Heidelberg

About Chordoma Foundation
We are a very small patient group.  Worldwide we are less than Sarcoma UK!

Our mission is to improve, extend and ultimately save the lives of chordoma patients by:
Accelerating the development of more effective treatments
Helping patients across the world.

One in a million, on a mission – Chordoma Foundation


Beatrice Seddon, UCL Hospital NHS Trust UK
Uterine Sarcoma

Gynaecological sarcomas – where are we in 2013?

Incidence of gynae sacomas
1985 – 2009 5950 gynae sarcomas diagnosed in the UK
9.2 case per million female population
285 cases diagnosed in 2009
Peak incidence 30-60 years

NCIN Gynae sarcoma report soon to be published.

Classification WHO 2003
Uterine Mesenchymal tumours *****
Smooth muscle tumours
Endometrial stromal tumours

Do not include malignant mixed Mullerian tumours

Location of tumours
85% of gynae sarcoma arise in the uterus
7% I the ovary
4% in the uterine malignancies

Sloan Kettering uterine leiomysosarcoma nomogram – overall survival probability prediction tools

Management of gynae sarcoma
Surgery – Most important component of treatment


Marco Fiore
The interdisciplinary process of diagnosis in soft tissue sarcoma

MDT involved
Pathologist, medical Oncologist, thoracic surgeon
Web based National Rare tumours network, radiation oncologist
Surgical oncologist Radiologist

Sarcoma MDT
Many specialists have routine activity with MDT team.

Weekly routine meetings with the specialists, pathologic round, clinical round and MDT outpatients.

Any deep mass OR bigger than 5cm OR increasing in size

  • Hystologic exam (better than cytologic)
  • Think about possible surgical incision
  • Keep high-level of clinical suspicion
    • Be aware of usual misdiagnosis -> deep large ‘hematomas’ are virtually impossible if no trauma history and/or anticoagulant drugs.

Core-needle biopsy
Local clinic
Usually two samples.

Pathologist – new classifications WHO classification of soft tissue tumours

In common cancer they are white or black
Benign – no problem.
Malignant – diagnosis of cancer.

Within soft tissue transfer it is a scale of white, greys and black,
Benign, Intermediate aggressive tumour, (locally aggressive) or (rarely metastasizing)  Malignant.

Different decision for soft tissue sarcoma diagnosis.

Soft tissue sarcomas can be diagnosed anywhere in the body and surgery on sites can be very varied yet the tumour type could be the same histology.  Anatomic constraints.

First think the overall strategy:

  • Histology specific (and grade)
    • Combination of natural history
    • Different sensitivity to different drugs
    • Different radio-sensitivity
  • Site specific
    • Respectability
    • Reconstruction needs

What I can do + what the tumour can do = What I should do.

Please note, overall strategy should think in advance.

Sometimes it’s important for the surgeon to consider what to do rather than rush into it… difficult as most patients want surgery immediately but caution may in fact be best for the outcome.

Pushing tumour margins Or with infiltrative margins.

External lesions it may be better (angiosarcoma photo used) to have any chemo after surgery… that way the surgeon can see exactly where they need to perform surgery.

Functional outcome is an issue.  Needs planning to ensure that particularly with arms etc that reconstruction of nerves etc is also planned to provide patient with best outcome.

Cosmetic outcome can be problematic.  Such as on the head and neck.  Plastic surgeon should also be consulted as part of the planning.

INT – treatment criteria
Changing over time 1987-2007

  • Less amputations.  Decreased from the 1st to the 4th period (9% -> 3% -> 1% -> 1%)
  • Concurrent chemo—radiation therapy.  Preoperatively

Local recurrence was improved.  Survival did not change.  Functional outcome and quality of life did.

One-shot approach.  You need to think in advance for this strategy.

  • Re-excision: up to 50% of the cases referred to tertiary centres.
  • Impact on public health costs /reimbursement criteria??
  • Impact on extension of final surgery and functional outcome.
  • Psychological impact on patient and family (unexpected diagnosis: whoops! – delayed diagnosis – second opinion change diagnosis in 30%)
  • No prognostic impact.

Retroperitonal soft tissue sarcoma
Probability of finding via CT scan is low.

Biopsy remains the gold standard in diagnosing sarcoma!


Julia Hill, Deputy National Programme Director, National Cancer Peer Review, UK
Peer review of quality of treatment, access to treatment and centres of excellence.

What is Peer Review?

  • Quality assurance programme based on National Guidance and National Standards.
  • For Sarcoma this wa the Improving Outcomes Guidance.
  • Guidance by nature is guidance and cannot specifically be measured.  Need to be benchmarked.
  • It’s not a statutory function but well supported in NHS.

Development of peer review

  • Developed initially around cancer services.  Broadening outside of cancer.
  • First reviews took place in 2001.  Been through many reviews and remodelling.
  • Number of independent reviews support the continuation with recommended support.

Aims of Peer Review

  • Providing safe services
  • Improving quality and effectiveness of care
  • Improving the patient and carer experience
  • Undertaking independent, fair reviews of services
  • Providing development and learning for all
  • Encouraging the dissemination of good practice.

Key principles of Peer Review

  • Clinically led
  • Consistent in delivery
  • Developmental
  • Focus on coordination within and across the organisation and pathway
  • Peer to peer.  Clinicians working in the area reviewing clinicians and teams.
  • Integration with other review systems.  Hopefully no duplicating information.
  • User/Carer involvement.

Benefits of the Peer Review Programme

  • Proven to be a catalyst for change.
  • Developmental programme
  • Provides director of services and information across the country
  • Identify any risks in the service by visiting and bringing to the attention we can get these involved quickly
  • We have a lot of clinicians involved in process (3-3,500 clinicians who review)
  • Rapid sharing
  • Provision of timely benchmarking data.

The Peer Review Methodology
Annual Self Assessment -> Internal Validation -> External verification -> Peer review visits.

Reviewing evidence

  • Quality measures.  Ask teams to provide evidence documents to keep workload minimal.  We ask for doctors that the team would be using in every day… work programme, operation policy, annual report.
  • Narrative report against key themes… for structure and function.  What membership of teams.  What’s the training.  Patient pathways and clinical guidelines.  Patient experience.  How do get patient feedback.
  • Clinical outcomes.  We are moving toward looking at clinical outcomes.

Development of the measures
National guidance
Expert Groups – nurses, allied health professionals, dieticians etc and also patients.
Consultation – get together to create a set of measures for the service.
Formal consultation – for approx 3 months.
Editing – meet again and edit etc.
Publication – measures reviewed on an annual basis to take into account changes in national guidelines.

Measures for Sarcoma published in August 2011NCAT Manual for Cancer Services – Sarcoma Measures
Cover aspects:

  • Sarcoma Advisory Group
  • Trust – inc Diagnostic Clinics
  • MDT – Bone and soft tissue.

What makes up a peer review visit:

  • Provide an opportunity to meet with members of a service to determine compliance with the quality measures.
  • Identify any broader issues relating to the delivery of a quality and safe service including a review of clinical indicators.
  • Provide a further external check on internal quality assurance processes.

Look at the wider picture of how the team functions against how they’re delivering against clinical indicators.

Who are Reviewers?
MDT – service users, clinicians, AHPs, Managers and commissioners…
Peers are people who have been trained and working in the same discipline as the people they are reviewing.

We don’t have reviewers reviewing the trust next door but are objective of the pathways.

Selection Criteria for a Peer Review Visit

  • We don’t visit all the centres but do a risk based target for the visit.  Are they meeting national guidance.
  • Were there any risks identified previously that have still not been involved.
  • We’re asked by organisations to visit.
  • Compliance against measures with lowest performance grouping… If teams are still not reaching 50% of measures then we need to go in and see what the problem is.
  • Concerns regarding the Internal Validation process.

2012/13 Peer Review Visits
12 Sarcoma Advisory Groups
145 Trusts, 19 Diagnostic teams
15 MDTs

Good Practice
Generally good provision for TYA Support for this patient group nationally
Good patient involvement overall and good examples of support
Good entry into clinical trials

Immediate risks
Inadequate referral population
Below 100 patients

Serious Concerns

  • Inadequate CNS provision
  • Lack of attendance at the SMDT by radiology and pathology
  • Lack of oncology capacity (non-surgical oncology)
  • Ambiguous/fragmented pathways (retroperitoneal and site specific)
  • Poor pathway/MDT governance / Data

Recurring Themes
Reiterate points before, particular issue was some Self Assessment Groups do not benefit from same support as more matter NSSGs

Clinical Outcomes
Clinical Indicators for sarcoma were introduced in April 2013:

  • % patients treated in Sarcoma centres
  • Caseload by Sarcoma centre
  • % patients receiving surgery
  • Readmission rates within 30 days of surgery
  • % patients with a recorded stage.

Working with NCIN to provide service profiles for each of our teams.  Ie Cancer Service Profiles for Breast cancer   Comprise of demographic data, specialist team, throughput, meeting times, practice, outcomes and recovery and Patient experience.

Outcomes of Peer Review

  • Confirm quality of services
  • Identify shortcomings and publish
  • Publish reports about quality of services
  • Timely information for commissioning
  • Validate information which is available to other stakeholders

My Cancer Treatment – is the website that patients can then see and compare local services and check what the results are for their local hospital etc.
Click on Find out more to see the narrative of the report.

We know that not only patients are looking at the website – commissioners are also doing so.

Sarcoma UK have prepared and posted on their website a summary of the Patient Experience Survey results


SPAEN Partnerships and Collaborations

Progress in Rare Cancer Care
Collaborations and Networks

Winette van der Graaf, Chair EORTC STSG, Netherlands and Estelle Lecointe, SPAEN France

What drives us as a sarcoma specialist?
If you work on frequent cancers, do randomised trials.  If you work on rare cancers – find friends..

What is EORTC
Exists for 50 years.
Important institute in Europe.   Main aim is to collaborative academic research throughout Europe to improve the outcome for cancer patients.

There also groups that breaching these tumour groups such as elderly, quality of life, biomarkers etc

One family of sarcoma group.

Throughout Europe
Soft Tissue Bone Sarcoma Group

  • Throughout Europe
  • Randomised phase 2 an 3 studies
  • Interesting partner for Pharma.  Difficult in a rare disease to get pharma involved however with big databases they’re interested!
  • Big and relevant data bases
  • Gets support from EORTC,
  • Platform of discussing studies in such rare disease.  But also a platform of finding friends and collaborations.   We are all busy with a very rare disease for which there are not so many people available.
  • Collaborative spirit.

Organisation of STBSG

  • Board of group, period of 9 years
  • ExCo with charis of the subcommittees
  • 2 group’s meeting a year
  • Young investigators of the group.  Welcome new members interested in doing studies in sarcoma.

Group gets a scientific audit every 3 years.   So we are audited on the way we behave and want to see minutes and outcome and publications and all activities.   Proud to say the last audit took place this year and we ranked very high.  Always hope that you will have good advisors to make it even better.


  • Local treatment – radiotherapy, surgery
  • Systemic treatment – chemo targeted agents
  • Pathology
  • Imaging.  Radiologist part of design of studies.
  • Quality of life since 2012
  • Public relations, starting from 2013
  • … pre-clinical group to look at what’s going on in other institutes (to be set up)

Collaboration with…

  • National groups in France, Germany, Spain, Italy, British, etc
  • Some members are members of World Sarcoma Network.  Number is increasing.
  • Pharmaceutical companies
  • EU grants and education (this needs to be extended)

Open studies…
Very few later stage open studies at the moment.    Working hard to get new studies active.

STRASS and CREATE studies.

New intiatives

  • Many database studies

Discussions about

  • Osteosarcoma French Study
  • Ewing sarcoma (FP7)
  • Liposarcoma CDK4 inhibitor
  • GIST: fist line, second line, third line
  • Elderly study: cyclophospharmide/prednisolone
  • Imaging studies on STRASS

World Sarcoma Network
This is a totally different institution created in 2009 by enthusiastic people in the sarcoma field.  Cooperative group gathering the main reference centres to stimulate rapid clinical drug development for sarcomas.
Enable clinical studies that could not be completed by the cooperative groups or at a national and continental level.  Where it needs a global level to discuss.

In Europe, in Australia Peter Mac, Ludwig Institute Australia

World Sarcoma Network the challenges

  • If you have no institute location and no funding how can you organise it.  Busy of thinking of a model of how to do this.  We have the international rare cancer initiative.
  • Very rare disease – unattractive for Pharma
  • ‘Sarcoma of the year’ 2013 gynae sarcomas.  If we are not more concrete what we are aiming at then for the outer world it will be a vague institute of nice people but no objective.
  • Biannual meetings during ASCO and CTOS

Examples of successful collaborations

  • Trials in GIST
  • EORTC – Italian and Australasian Sarcoma Group Centres in the US

With the input from all of you, there will be many more studies to come…



Jean Yves Blay, Centre Leon Barard Lyon, France
European Clinical Trials in Rare Sarcomas within an integrated translational trial network

How do we get funding for collaborative working?
Each network gets funding from different parts but how do we bring these together?

Where grants from EuroSARC came together.    Tools to enable this network of networks to move in the right direction.

Some times successful in some projects but other times on our own we may be unsuccessful.

We can build something on the basis of international grants.

GOAL – EuroSARC project – Academic clinical trials with a limited number of partners but inclusive for all networks and all groups.

Interaction between clinical research <-> Translational research <-> basic research

To address major academic questions
Involve reference centres
Tod design structure and implement 9 innovative investigator driving clinical trials of different scales on a multinational level, evaluating novel


  • An important support for Ebased on previous work
  • Academic research only
  • Difficulties/problems
  • Adaption to the context/change of plans. website

1.     About sarcomas
2.     2 Eurosarc project
3.     Eurosarc clinical trials
4.     Patient and public info
5.     Utilities
6.     Members section

Sarcoma SPAEN Conference – Day 1

This is the third year I’ve attended the SPAEN conference. The three days are always action packed, exhausting, thought provoking and inspirational. The delegates attending are from throughout Europe and most of whom have a personal interest in improving the cancer landscape. There are a great many organisations represented and crossing borders, sharing knowledge, experience and information. Importantly working collaboratively on projects, without ego or personal gain. There’s a great deal that charities and businesses alike could learn from this group!

This blog entry is taken from my extensive notes at the conference and I hope will be useful to many. I am quite sure that SPAEN will soon post their own conference report on their website so please be sure to check back.


The Opening Welcome was given jointly by Roger Wilson and Markus Wartenberg

It is a testament to the organisation that this is the fourth year this conference has taken place and membership, interest and outcomes continue to grow. Despite being a European conference we have this year also attendee representatives from USA, China and Australia. Their aim of attending is to understand how a patient group like SPAEN operates, listen to stories and examples from attendees and take back these learnings to their own countries.


Raz Dewji, Director – Clinical Scientist, GlaxoSmithKline Oncology Global Medical Affairs, UK
GSK Europe welcomes SPAEN to UK London as the main conference sponsor

“A personal perspective on the impact the ‘Patients Voice’ in drug development”

A journey that has been incredibly emotional. I’ve learnt how important it is to understand and hear what patients are asking for. Hopefully some of the work that we are doing and other companies are doing is now reflecting the voice that you collectively and as individuals have been delivering at different levels of the few years that we have known each other. I feel very humbled.

A little bit about GSK
GSK is a science led global healthcare company researches and develops innovative medicines, vaccines and consumer healthcare products.

Mission statement – do more feel better and live longer.

A lot of you have contributed in some shape or form to the journey I’ve had in the past 7 years and hopefully able to share some of those insights with you.

Less than 10% of patients with rare diseases are ‘treated’ on a global basis.

GSK concentrating a team on 200 different rare diseases.

Patient centric medicine is an area that is becoming much more focussed and a growing need to understand the patient.

Partnerships between organisations like GSK (Pharma) and patient advocacy groups are critical to bring new treatment options to those who are in need of them. GSK is very proud to be a long-term supporter of SPAEN.

GSK – Focus on the Patient Initiative

  • Post approval Disease Awareness. Once we have a new medicine approved we then work externally to raise the awareness for the disease.
  • Simplification of the information consent form and process (for clinical trials). Really important to try to get some of those documents into a manageable form where patients feel comfortable and the information they are provided with is appropriate not full of legal jargon.
  • Engagement with patients and physicians at different levels. Clinical trial space – to understand the trial and get feedback. How has a trial been for patients? What was your experience?
  • Treatment adherence initiatives. Helping patients to take medications appropriately. Increasing focus on developing oral medications rather than intravenously… however there can be challenges for side effects and also getting patients to remember to take the medication.
  • Working with the patient support groups.

Post approval Disease Awareness
GSK took on an advertisement raising awareness to physicians to what a challenging disease Soft Tissue Sarcoma is – Raising Awareness of a Challenging Disease advertisement.

My first encounter with sarcoma was in 1991…
At the time I was working as ‘study monitor’ based in Brussels doing a lot of work in different oncology drugs.
I was working with a patient and realised that she had the same date of birth as my brother. It still gives him quite a jolt of reality recalling the challenge in these phase 1 trials. These are usually in older patients except often in sarcoma patients who tend to be younger. A very emotional moment to realise my brother was the same age as this patient and this has stayed with me.

In 2006 I joined GSK as indication lead for pazopanib in advanced soft tissue sarcoma (‘STS’)…
Phase 1 trial had good results of the 6 patients entered… 4 had stable disease by 6 months.

Key milestones for pazopanib in a STS
September 1996 – Program Initiation
Nov 2001 – Candidate Selection
December 2002 – First in Human Dose
October 2005 – 1st STS Patient Dosed (Phase 2)
Sept 2007 – Proof of Concept
March 2008 – Phase 3 Commitment
Oct 2008 – 1st STS patient dosed (Phase 3)
June 2011 – Supplemental NDA Submission
April 2012 – US FDA Approval
August 2012 – EMA Approval

Collaboration with EORTC Soft Tissue and Bone Sarcoma Group Phase 2 and 3
He met with Prof Judson at the Royal Marsden to talk specifically about patient cases. That collaboration has driven the project forward and made him appreciate what a unique community the sarcoma community really is.

Without Sarcoma UK and SPAEN – patients in the UK would not have been able to participate in the PALETTE Phase 3 study. Double blind, placebo controlled trial.

Randomising into placebo without opportunity to cross over within the study.
Without intervention from patient groups it may well have not been able to take place.


Markus Wartenberg – SPAEN, Germany
Status report from the SPAEN task force ‘Therapy and side effect management’. Problems and experiences from other advocates – examples of adherence tools?

Oral targeted therapies:

Often patients attitudes/statements:

  •  I am doing fine, I don’t want to spoil my day with feeling unwell.
  • Nausea /diarrhoea reminds me of having this disease – every day.
  • Drug holidays: to have a great weekend or vacations.
  • Doing well after time: Let’s return to normal life
  • Adjuvant settings: No ‘detectable’ tumour. It’s only for prophylaxis…
  • Poor packaging – complicated dosing schedule – forgetfulness.

Often in reality…
Drs attempts at therapy and side effect management. Attitudes/statements:

  • 5 minutes of information: basis for the therapy offered. Is this enough?
  • Let’s see each other in 3 months….
  • If you have any side effects, contact your GP. Would GPs know?
  • Reduction from 12 to 4 different drugs. This many drugs to manage side effects? Needs to be assessed.
  • Others don’t have this problem. This must be psychologically.Underrated: Dermatology, dental treatment, high blood pressure.

There are also side effects that are not visible to the Dr or the patients.. ie high blood pressure (unless it’s measured before and after). Nausea can’t be measured… and lots more.


  • Modern systemic oral treatments will not work in a patient who does not take his medication.
  • Adherence is an issue but it not only a patient issue. Could this have an impact from the media? Is it that the drugs are provided without a side effect management explained and information. Seeking information from other patients or a patient group where a GP perhaps doesn’t know… consequence is that they may take drug holidays ie underdosed with this type of treatment.

Issues for Healthcare Professionals:

  • Misled assumption: Cancer! My patient is taking his medicine.
  • Often: Lack of expertise, experience, time, maintenance (especially in rare cancers).
  • No/less time dedicated to adherence and therapy/side effect management
  • Problem: Do healthcare systems incentivise maintenance?

Patients may not always report:

  • Side effects (or the full extent of the side effects on their Quality of Life)
  • Drugs holidays or modifications to dosing schedules
  • All of the medications, supplements, treatments they are taking for side effect management.

Factors for adherence and persistence: Paper written by Rob Horne – UCL School of Pharmacy)

  • Personal factors such as where people don’t trust medicine
  • Interaction with the system.
  • Treatment factors that might play a role for the patient. (Dosing. Some instances flexible dosing may be prescribed and have a better effect.)
  • Treatment duration – is it possible to treat on a long term basis if this is better. What’s the situation of progression? Should the drug be stopped? – Side effect management. What about prophylactic? All these need to be considered for Optimum Efficacy.
  • How good is the patient/Dr communication on these issues? What kind of questions are raised by the patient and indeed the Dr.
  • We always talk about ‘the patient’… are we always using the same process for every ‘patient’ or perhaps they should be treated individually.

Maximising patient outcomes with targeted agents:
Target agents: a new era in systematic treatment.
-> Patient needs to benefit from a therapy for as long as possible
-> Three key factors for optimum efficacy
-> Adherence
-> Getting the most out of your therapy.

Joining forces for access, quality, innovations and changes.
Communication and cooperation between all groups including healthcare pharma and patients is needed.

When a survey was conducted they discovered that – Less than 50% knew about the standard supportive actions.

Informing and educating the medical people who, in turn educate the patients.
More awareness and support. Brochures at patient and physicians meetings.

Relaunching new website working on a specific tool as an online database of side effect management. What are the real issues? What are the interaction that patients can do? Hopeful that medics will use it also.

  • Working on a patient guide on therapy and side effect management.
  • Also developed another patient guide, about complementary therapy and nutrition. What can I eat if one of my side effect affects my mouth, ulcers or the like? Patients also have to be aware of the side effects that may be because of the complementary therapy or nutrition etc as it could adversely react to the conventional medicine.
  • Engage with industry to be involved with patient materials. They have to be valuable to patients, patient friendly and written in a way that can be understood by the patients.
  • Physician training for teams on dermatology with oncologists/nurses/Drs. They can then best understand these side effects. Need a combination to work on these issues and involve dermatologists in the process.

Potential activities:
Patient advocacy groups

  • Information education of patients and carers
  • Information about influencing factors – complementary medicine and nutrition
  • Hotlines, info-materials, treatment diaries
  • Together with experts: practical recommendation.
  • Own studies/surveys (Evidence) with support of industry and experts
  • Online – Database “Side Effect Management”
    • Mailing list and/or forum exchange
    • Listings: Centres – best therapy care.

Healthcare industry:

  • Are packaging and dose schedules – is it patient friendly?
  • Studies: side effects not only ‘grading’ but also ‘duration’…
  • Real life studies – reg. dosing and outcome…
  • Congresses, conferences, symposia; Awareness!!
  • Information and education (doctors, nurses, pharmacists, etc)
  • Support/train local networks: Oncologists and nurses and dermatologists
  • Health policy: Compensation for time, communication, support
  • Develop material for patients – BUT together with Patient Awareness Groups
  • If care packages not via Medicals via Patient Awareness Groups (make it measurable on the holistic assessment?)
  • Materials and tools to support adherence
  • Not “company specific” Engagements with other pharmaceutical companies.

Oral target therapies in Sarcomas/GIST:
Professional therapy – and side effect management as the main factor for adherence. Our patients must get the BEST benefit for as long as possible from these kind of treatment with an acceptable quality of life.



Dr Francesco Pignatti, Scientific and Regulatory Management Department, European Medicines Agency, UK (“EMA”)
The process of authorisation for new generic drugs

What are generics?
Defined as essentially similar products. Must contain the same qualitative or quantitative composition in active substances as the originator. Same pharmaceutical form and studies to prove it’s working in an appropriate way.

Approx a 40% saving at the time a generic medicine is introduced.

What data are required?
Chemical, and pharmaceutical aspects (Quality)

  • Same requirements as for the product.

Non-clinical studies (in vitro studies, animal studies)

  • Often no studies required for generic product

Clinical studies

  • Only bioequivalence required for generic product (no need for traditional phase 1-3 development)

In essence: “if the fraction of the dose absorbed is the same, the human body should always do the same with the absorbed compound”

It may be that the ‘packaging’ ie the tablet form or coating makes it’s absorption being different.

Issues related to bioequivalence

  • Biowavier
    • For different strengths
    • Using the BCS classification approach
  • Parent compound versus active metabolite
  • Investigation in fed versus fasting state
  • Handling of outliers

EMA experience

  • Initial evaluation application by type
  • Average active time taken for evaluation is 171 days… no different from other drugs.
  • Rejection rate is about 10%
  • Whenever generic or another drug is approved, it goes on their website and more general information about what generic drugs are

Q. What about the psychological impact of changing from a drug that works to a ‘generic’ drug that they don’t know works?
A. Would have to understand there is a risk and if so what is it.
Q. Why is the patient responding to that drug? Will it be the same with the generic.
A – The active ingredient is the same and it is hitting the target. Objectively it should have no different response. Psychologically it would have to be considered on an individual basis and perhaps needs to be managed accordingly. Patient preference issue should be reviewed by the Dr.


Dr Karen Facey, Honorary Senior Research FelLow, University of Glasgow, Introduction to Health Technology Assessment (“HTA”)
How can patient groups be involved in the process of access to new therapies? – Health Policy Consultant, UK

Health Technology Assessment

  • What do patients have to contribute?
  • Providing evidence to HTA
  • Participating effectively in the HTA process
  • Principles of patient involvement in HTA

Difficult decisions

  • Do new treatments and procedures add value compared to current treatment?
  • Should the health system invest in them?
  • If we invest in a new treatment there is an ‘opportunity cost’ – we must take investment away from somewhere else in the system.
  • How do we decide what the priorities are?

In times of austerity we need to look at how to make a fair decision about how to spend the budget fair for the population we are serving.

How do we decide what to stop investing in?

Since NICE involvement there has been an increasing use of this process called Health Technology Assessment. It’s meant to be a fair systematic evaluation of the clinical effectiveness and/or cost effectiveness and/or social and ethical impact of a health technology on the lives of patients and the health care system. Should we invest to get that amount of benefit?

Health Technology Assessment International

Ethical issues come in strongly for trials.

HTA is being used more and more for where to spend money.

Health Technologies.
A ‘health technology’ is any intervention that may be used to promote health, to prevent diagnose or treat disease or for rehabilitation or long term care.

This includes education, vaccines and much more.

Another part of assessment should be to determine ‘which patients will benefit most from it?’ How long they should get it and if they don’t respond what next?

HTA and decision making is often considered a bridge between scientific evidence and decision-making.

Patients have unique knowledge and perspectives that can inform.

Patients and carers experiences:
Living with an illness

  • No one knows better what it is like to live with an illness day in day out, than those who are doing this – the patients and their family and friends who care for the.

How can patients perspectives in HTA be a route to robust evidence and fair deliberation?

Patients and carers can contribute to HTA

  • By providing EVIDENCE about their experiences and preferences
  • Through PARTICIPATION in the HTA process.

Within the Scottish Medical Commission’s Submission of Evidence Template – SMC 04/12.

Section 3 – views of patients. Carers and families.

Patient evidence:

  • Ideally, concise and balanced overview that reflects the range of patients perspectives
  • Variations in clinical practice
  • Personal perspectives about benefits and difficulties with the technology.
  • Views on rules for starting and stopping treatment
  • Evidence and facts NOT emotions.

Watch the lay people present their case to the Scottish Parliament – Health and Sport Committee Scottish Parliament on 29th January 2013. This demonstrates the importance of presenting evidence, facts and presenting as if a well run business.

Clinical trials vs patient benefit

Some tips about how to gather patient experiences and preparing the evidence:

  • Review helpline questions
  • Survey/questionnaires
  • Social networking
  • Patient stories (videos)
  • Qualitative research (interview, focus groups…)

Build an evidence base!

There is a research project of the HTA – Patient/Citizen Involvement Sub-Group (PCISG)

Through this sub-group there is participation in the HTA process at every stage:

  • Study design to produce evidence
  • HTA topic selection
  • Scoping
  • Submission of evidence
  • Presentation of patient experience to expert committee
  • Sitting on an HTA decision making committee
  • Commenting on recommendations
  • Patient friendly summaries
  • Dissemination/communications
  • Designing and reviewing patient engagement processes
  • Use HTA to inform charity investments
  • Contribution to governmental review of HTA.

Increasing there are opportunities for patients to get involved in designing the patient engagement policies.


  • Population
    • What patients?
    • When an agency starts a process it looks to what patients should be considered.
  • Intervention
  • What medicine, what dose, duration, how’s it administered etc.
  • Comparators
  • Outcome – what matters to patients?

Communicating to a committee

  • Understand your audience and how you are allowed to participate
  • Identify what other experts will be involved and seek to provide unique knowledge.
  • Be prepared with written evidence to refer to
  • Know how long you have to speak – top 3 messages
  • Facts, not emotions.

Tips for writing your consultation response (NICE-IPP)

  • Evaluation of efficacy and safety – not costs.
  • Doesn’t need to be lengthy or comment on everything
  • Short, focussed response
  • Be specific about the procedure
  • Balanced positive and negative
  • No local issues.


Eric Lowe, Chief Executive Myeloma UK
Build your own evidence base – experiences with NICE in the UK

Eric speaks about his involvement on behalf of Myeloma UK with HTA. Taken part successfully in 20 HTA appraisals. Very steep learning curve and some of the toughest experience.

Reimbursement increasingly a huge issue – tremendous problem across the world even in wealthy countries.

HTA is expanding and evolving.

My view is that in 5 years time the UK is going to be a great place as HTA continues to evolve.

Dumbing down health economics, public health doctors and government – empowering HTA.

Biggest mistake of working with patient groups is that they don’t appreciate the wider agenda ie not just about patients.

Work with NICE and help them do their job properly. Help them to create a new environment rather than butt against them.

Being involved…

  • Patient groups need to be crystal clear on what their ole is and isn’t. It’s a huge commitment to be involved in an appraisal so it is important that patients and patient groups are as effective as they can be.
  • They must also try to represent at the patient view beyond the emotional and angry. Got to behave a s a professional cognisant of all the aspects and being able to represent the case.

Being listened to…

  • Need to be seen as both a patient and a key opinion leader
  • They must understand the broad and competing issues around the table and then take up a compelling but balanced and credible position.
  • Early engagement is critical. It is important to go into an appraisal with a detailed understanding of the technology and the opinions and positions of other stakeholders.
  • Patient groups should engage with the company and clinicians to find out their views and opinions.

How early should you get involved?… Phase II study group or before!!

Must ensure that all representatives engage prior to that point to get consensus and agree on the issues and objections. They should work collectively to submit a cohesive and consistent submission rather than sending in several potentially very different submissions which may show that there is a poor understanding and little agreement about the benefits and/or impact of a new technology.

Building evidence…

  • Patent groups need to think about conducting research to provide evidence for their arguments.
  • Anecdotal is not good enough so by conducting studies of patient preference, values and impact etc. puts you in a much stronger position and gives the approval committee more certainty around what impact a new technology may or may not have.
  • Be careful about quality of life.
  • Need to think way I advance of the beginning of the appraisal to give time to conduct, analyse and write up their evidence/data
  • Patients also have a role in ensuring the clinical evidence is fit for purpose.
  • Patient groups also need to encourage industry to work with NICE Scientific Advice and also attempt to influence the clinical trial designs of registration studies or to encourage additional evidence development to address the evidence gaps. The service is available to help… only 10% of companies use the service!!!

Myeloma UK have established a national clinical trials network. We worked with pharma ahead of time, looked at the trial compared to NICE and then designed a phase 2 academic study to deal with.


  • Reimbursement issues are increasingly challenging
  • HTA is here to stay, is evolving and expanding.
  • Specialist expertise is needed
  • Inputs needs to be better, crap in crap out. Much more important than that… it’s based on a Phase 3 Global Licensing study… quite often that is very different to clinical practice… even if NICE say yes to the drug we need to make sure we can translate it into effective clinical practice.
  • Done properly it’s a good thing and patient groups should embrace it and make it work for them.
  • HTA is only part of the process and not the end.

Be partners and help involve HTA from the inside.

Follow up appointment

This morning I attended the breast cancer clinic for an appointment following my recent biopsy.  As in the previous posting the pathology indicated that the ‘dots’ weren’t anything to worry about.  However I felt that I needed to understand why they had ‘suddenly’ appeared (they weren’t on previous mammogram); what they really are; are they connected to the sporadic breast pain; and, of course, truly believe that they weren’t the start of something more sinister.

She explained that the dots were calcifications which are small spots of calcium salts.  Calcifications develop naturally as breast tissue ages however can also form if there’s been an infection in or injury to, the breast.  The concern though is that sometimes they  form because of other changes in the breast such as a cyst or fibroadenoma or as an early sign of breast cancer.   (Breast Cancer Care have a leaflet which explains in more detail – here)

Because of my history of malignant phyllodes (which initially biopsied as benign fibroadenoma) and of DCIS all of which were removed in 2009, there was a concern that these new dots may well be indicating something awry.  Fortunately the pathology and consultants believe that these are purely calcium salt spots ie nothing to worry about.  That said, they were keen to ensure that I continued with my regular check up regimen so that any changes will be picked up early.

Next screening scans are booked in for January 2014… Bubbles anyone?

Sarcoma Consultation

This afternoon I met, as planned, with my sarcoma team for the results of my six monthly checks from the perspective of phyllodes sarcoma.  They will, of course, be involved in reviewing the results of the biopsy however were keen to let me know what they know, so far.  Good news, there was NED (No Evidence of Disease) in my lungs from the chest x-ray and no evidence of any sarcoma growth visible from the ultrasound and mammogram.

I’ll best get on with healing from the biopsy which now the anaesthetic is wearing off is mightily ouchy! Thank heavens for paracetamol.

Next appointment 22nd July.

6 monthly checkups

A wonderful visit to Belfast to see Johan Gant and Nikki Tweed become Mr and Mrs Gant on 4th July.  Fabulous day and so pleased Johan was able to source and I was able to secure flights to enable me to be there between medical appointments.


This morning, I was up and out of the hotel in Northern Ireland at the delightful hour of 4.45 A.M.… a time that I’ve not seen for quite a while!  Quick dash to the airport, a small flight to Gatwick, train to Clapham, bus to the Kings Road and then a short walk to the Royal Marsden Hospital.  Whoohooo I even managed to do all that AND be early for my appointments.

You see it was my six monthly checkups today.  My July regimen is ultrasound, mammogram and a chest x-ray.

There has been some discussion within the medical world that checkups are unnecessary, worrisome to the patients and costly to the NHS purse.  It’s been suggested that perhaps cancer patients should have less frequency in checkups.  Or no checkups at all BUT rely on patients raising concerns or with ‘quick access’ back into the system should we find any lumps.  This CANNOT happen.

I’ve been fabulously fortunate in that my medical teams have advocated for me to have a thorough checkup regimen agreed.

Today I was grateful for their professionalism and care of my health and these regular checks.

My mammogram slides have shown some spots that need further investigation.  The radiologist doesn’t believe that they are more Phyllodes tumours but suggests that they may be a scattering of DCIS (ductal carcinoma in situ). Because of the location of the ‘spots’ she has suggested that I come back for a stereotactic biopsy where they will be able to suction out several tissue samples.   I will hear next week about a date for this biopsy but expect it to be in the next week or so.  Following the biopsy, the samples will be sent to the pathologists.  Then the MDT (multi-disciplinary team) will assess the results and advice what the next steps are.

I’ll keep you posted…

Text to a friend

Whilst away at the European Sarcoma Conference I knew something wasn’t right.  I think I knew that Tish would be protecting me whilst I was overseas.  She fully supported my being involved in conferences, boards, cancer networks etc so wouldn’t want to burden me whilst I was abroad.  But I’ve had this dreadful feeling all day.  Below is a (long) text message I sent to a friend:

“I need to run something by you. I don’t know that you’ll understand nor that I’ll be able to tell you all I need to say but I need to know I’ve tried and need to know you’ve listened.

You may remember me talking about the ‘champagne and shoe’ girls. A little band of cancer warriors, Kerry, Letitia and I. Kerry and Tish had ovarian cancer and I was introduced to them quite some time ago but we hit a chord and just ‘got it’, ‘got each other’. No matter how bleak a prognosis or indeed how bleak we felt, we’ve been able to spark each other, support one another, have a laugh and look beyond.

This time last year Kerry passed away. I had the call from Tish at this conference in Berlin and my heart broke just a little bit more. Kerry was always so strong. We had a giggle. We both enjoyed bubbles and we also enjoyed the same shoe collection and spent an hour or several trying on new pairs.

But Kerry was truly Tish’s support. They both had the same diagnosis and a similar prognosis. Tish and I have been close this last year and there have been many times when she’s been feeling down or I have, we’ve met up, put the world to rights and left back in our positive places. Some times we’ve not managed to meet but talk by text. Tish has been very poorly but after living her life and going to Australia embraced life once more and foiled the experts with a change in her prognosis once again.

She’s recently taken a turn for the worst and I saw her last a few weeks ago when she was a shadow of her former self but still had a smile and a hug for me.

She was admitted again to hospital a week or so ago and we’ve texted. The last texts written by her 22yo daughter last night.

I don’t know what to do. I’m being told by text that she’s weak but ok. But I fear the worst. Selfishly. Wonder how I’m going to cope without my rock to meet with at my bench or text or talk with. Somehow the world is so much better when Tish makes it better.

I’m so scared and don’t want to be the last champagne and shoe girl here. They both had a husband or daughter in their lives and I don’t. It makes no sense.

I’ve got a couple of missed calls and voicemails on my mobile but my PIN number doesn’t work so can’t pick them up… Please tell me they’re from you?

Not really sure if I’ll send this or if you’ll read it… Or what I want from writing it. I just know I want Tish to prove them all wrong and grow old being cantankerous and naughty with me.”

All change

In my posting in July I mentioned that I had asked my wonderful consultant about referring me to The Royal Marsden hospital’s sarcoma team for my follow up surveillance.

At 2pm today I had my first consultation appointment with the sarcoma team at The Royal Marsden. The waiting room was absolutely packed and I waited nervously for my name to be called.

I was concerned that they wouldn’t take my case on but that I had sort of ‘discharged myself’ from my previous consultant’s care. I was worried that they would perhaps think I was over anxious about follow up scans or perhaps that they would recommend I stay with my existing hospital. I was concerned that although they are a centre of excellence for sarcoma in the UK, that the person I was assigned wouldn’t know about Phyllodes – after all there are over 70 different sub-types of sarcoma.

So despite my waiting only a very short time, I was more than a little anxious. Had I made the right decision in asking my lovely consultant to refer me? Would he take me back if I hadn’t? What would I do if they didn’t take me on as a patient? What would I do if they changed my follow up surveillance schedule in a way that worried me more?

Phew, I’ve been called.

I first met with the nurse who explained what would happen and who I would be seeing. She then left me in the little consulting room whilst I waited for the Registrar. Seemed like ages and once again all my anxieties were kicking in. The Registrar then arrived and ran through my medical history and also asked about my siblings, parents and grandparents’ medical history. She also told me that my case had been discussed at today’s MDT (multi-disciplinary team) meeting in detail.

And then, she asked the question that I was most worried about answering… why was I here and what did I want from the Royal Marsden? So I told her why (see previous post) but I also told her about our Facebook “Phyllodes Support Group” and what I’ve been doing with Living Beyond Diagnosis. She asked a few more questions and then said she’d return with the consultant.

I was then left in the little consulting room on my own… and yes the little voice in my head was once again telling me that they wouldn’t have me as a patient etc etc.

I was terrifically grateful when the door opened once more and the Registrar came back into the room accompanied by a consultant. He introduced himself and we spoke briefly about me, my medical history, why I requested the referral and my previous care.

He then asked more about the Phyllodes Support Group and was terrifically impressed with the number of members, the information and experience sharing, the documents and reference papers that have been collated and also the polls and data that we were collecting and sharing within the group. He also said that he felt that should we, as a group, wish for some assistance or input for the group, then I should just ask and he would try to facilitate this for us.

I was also able to tell him about the report that is currently being finalised containing a section about Phyllodes from the contact I have met at two Cancer data conferences in the UK. He would love to see a copy of this when published.

It goes without saying that I will be looking at what input will be useful from RMH and also what we can provide to RMH from the group… certainly it would be fabulous to have a medical facility, who specialises in sarcoma, to take an active interest in the group members and their health. Watch this space!

We then returned to my health and monitoring for recurrence or metastases from the excised malignant phyllodes tumours. We agreed that my previous consultant had done an excellent surgical job in removing both of the tumours and then ensuring that sufficient clear margins were obtained. He agreed with the advice that I should not have any adjuvant radiotherapy at this time. He also agreed that the screening regimen implemented in my previous hospital was the best to quickly identify any local recurrence (together with my own personal checks). We then spoke about any requirements for any additional screening/surveillance for possible metastases, particularly with regard to the malignancy and mitoses of the excised tumours. He suggested and has requested that I have a 6-monthly chest x-ray at the same time as my existing scans ie annual mammogram with intervening 6 monthly ultrasound of both breasts.  This chest x-ray will be looking for any traces of naughty cells in my lungs.

I left RMH this afternoon feeling that I had made the right decision to ask to be referred. Perhaps I should have made the request at an earlier stage and saved myself some levels of anxiety along the way.  But I also know that I couldn’t have managed to do that before now.

I am, of course, sorry that I won’t be hearing my, now previous, lovely consultant refer to me as ‘Miss Lumpy Bumpy’ again but I’m so very grateful for his care up until now and can only say that whoever the patient is who gets my slot on his busy schedule is a very very lucky lady.  Perhaps I shall pop in with a box of biscuits for him and the team when I’m next passing my old hospital.

So that’s it. Next scans/checks are in January. Between now and then I’ve got a number of cancer conferences to attend, not least the annual Sarcoma conference which this year is in Italy. They were asking for patient advocate attendees to speak at the conference and I’ve put my name forward.  I would love the opportunity to tell them all about our Phyllodes Support Group and also about Phyllodes itself, in the hope that perhaps more medics and researchers will be more aware and knowledgeable.

Whoohooo, the results are in and it’s good!

I can’t tell you how sick I felt today going to the hospital. Why? I should be used to it by now. … shouldn’t I? The anxiety levels were through the roof as I tried to find a parking space in the car park. As I was cutting it fine, arriving only a minute before my appointment time, I decided to only buy 1 hours car parking (at a mere cost of £2.20/hr). Rushing across the lengthy car park and nearly coming a cropper as I missed a pavement, I rather launched myself into the clinic!

After checking in, I settled down and waited. And waited.

I realised though that actually I’d been spending far less time in this particular clinic of late… well there were magazines I’d not read, so that’s got to be a good sign. Right? They even had the latest Vita, which is a magazine produced by Breast Cancer Care and a wonderful source of information and support for anyone with primary or secondary breast cancer (and their carers).

I was also super-chuffed that there was an article about David Jay and The Scar Project. Love that project and am so honoured to have known Jolene and others who have taken part and shared their journey through the images. Incredible.

After an hour, I rushed out to put more money in for another hour parking…. And of course half way across the car park the heavens opened!

Seriously though, the cost of car parking in hospitals is absolutely mental and for those of us who have to visit hospitals regularly, is a real cost burden. As I made my way back to clinic in the rain, I thought I’ve probably had over 50 hospital appointments since 2009 and each of them cost roughly £4, that’s £200 I could have spent on champagne!!! (Oh I mean saved for a rainy day)

Anyway I think the trip to the car and my attempts at mathematics helped me get some perspective about my appointment. It wasn’t long afterward that I was called in to see the consultant and get my results.

I was shown into the ‘good room’ (ie not the room of doom), which helps enormously. A few minutes later, my consultant appeared with a smiley face and welcomed me warmly. Seriously, if there are any medics reading this, you could really learn from this man – how much easier is an appointment and our anxiety levels when someone is genuinely warm and welcoming?

We had our usual little chat, he told me I was looking well (another point for the medics!). Although to be fair, I’ve also learnt that I need to make the effort when I’m anxious.. always matching underwear, shoes, nails, hair done and make up applied.

We then talked some more about Phyllodes, what it is, what I’d learnt, what he’s learnt and what he’s telling his trainees. It’s always so encouraging to think that by my diagnosis and it being weird and rare, he’s taken that (and with my encouragement) and ensuring that there are going to be some medics of the future that know a little bit about it. I always hope that they get eager to learn more.

Next the manual examination. Once again I could commend him on his surgical handywork. The scar tissue is getting less and the excision site becoming more even. We talked about ‘evening up’ by surgery and it’s good to know the offer is there and he’d do a fabulous job… but I’m not ready for surgery again anytime soon.

Then I broached the ‘difficult subject’. As you will all know from reading my blog, I can’t be any happier with the way my consultant has looked after me, managed my case and helped me through this, supporting me every step of the way. However there have been the blips with the radiography department where they don’t necessarily understand about Phyllodes nor feel checks are necessary (or as has been mentioned “it’s not as if you’ve got breast cancer”!).

Anyway, the bottom line is that as someone diagnosed with Phyllodes, a rare soft tissue sarcoma, my case should have been referred to a sarcoma specialist to manage. However I’ve always been more than a little anxious to leave the fabulous care of my consultant. I still am.

But today I asked him if I could be referred to the Royal Marsden in London for my follow up regimen. I explained why I thought it was important to be with a sarcoma team and also a team that I know have other Phyllodes patients and understand them and the best treatment etc. I also told him that I was sorry I couldn’t still be seen by him sometimes! It does seem right though that I move on and my place in the breast cancer unit is indeed filled with a breast cancer patient. He’s a truly wonderful consultant and surgeon and whoever fills my slot in his busy schedule is indeed a very fortunate person.

He agreed that this was probably the best thing. However has said that if ever I’m worried or he can help in anyway, then to give him a call.

As I left, he put his hand out to shake mine and then laughed and said he felt it more appropriate to give me a hug!

On the way home in the car I shed a tear or two. I’m not sure if it’s because I’m scared if I’ve done the right thing. Am I leaving someone who I knows cares about my wellbeing and health and stepping into the unknown or am I leaving him but going to a more specialist unit that will be able to add Phyllodes expertise as well as care?

I hope I’ve done the right thing.

Sarcoma Awareness Week

This week is Sarcoma Awareness Week.  I wonder if you knew that?  The problem with being a rare cancer type is that even if you have an Awareness Week, you’re only a small voice in the big noise of life.  Even if you are able to get others to share the awareness and retweet or repost about it in their own social networking, how many people actually read it or look at links?  However I, for one, have tried to share the word.  I’ve taken Sarcoma UK leaflets into hospitals and GP surgeries.  I’ve even taken to leaving a few on seats of trains or tubes or buses – and loved it when people pick it up and read it to fill a few minutes of their journey.  You never know but what they read may well help someone else or themselves understand a sarcoma diagnosis.

So, I’m going to give you just a few facts about Sarcoma (extracted from Sarcoma UK’s website and I’d really really appreciate it if you could tell someone something about Sarcoma.

  • Sarcomas are rare cancers that develop in the supporting or connective tissues of the body such as muscle, bone, nerves, cartilage, blood vessels and fat.
  • There are around 3,200 new cases of sarcoma diagnosed each year in the UK.
  • Sarcomas account for about 11% of childhood cancers.
  • Sarcomas account for about 14% of cancers in teenagers.
  • Most sarcomas (approx 55%) affect the limbs, most frequently the leg.  About 15% affect the head and neck area or are found externally on the trunk, while the remainder will be found internally in the retroperitoneum (abdominal area).
  • There are around 70 different sub-types of sarcoma within these broad categories.  These sub-types are determined by the tissue of origin (the tissue in the body where the tumour originally formed), genetic characteristics or by other molecular analysis undertaken by expert pathologists.

Types of Sarcoma

  • Sarcomas fall into three broad categories:
  • Soft tissue cancers
  • Primary bone cancers
  • Gastro-intestinal stromal tumours (a type of soft tissue found in the stomach and intestines commonly known as GIST)

Causes of Sarcoma

The causes of most sarcomas are unknown.


Despite the many different sub-types of sarcoma, the general pattern of treatment is similar.

Surgery is commonly viewed as the best option for a ‘cure’.  Chemotherapy will usually be used with bone sarcomas before and after surgery, although it is less often used with soft tissue sarcoma. The case for chemotherapy following surgery is uncertain with soft tissue sarcoma but may be suggested with sub-types known to respond well to chemotherapy.

There are circumstances when radiotherapy offers benefits, usually after surgery but occasionally at other times too.

The treatment plan developed by your doctors will be specific for you. You may meet other patients with a similar diagnosis but who are having different treatment but this is usual and nothing to be worried about.

Surgery should be undertaken under the supervision of a sarcoma specialist multi-disciplinary team, even when the surgeon is not a regular member of that team.

There’s a really informative video created by Papercut Pictures called “All in it Together – Living with Sarcoma” from which you will a small selection of different ages, diagnoses and stories.  Do take a minute to watch


Phyllodes is a soft tissue sarcoma…


Tonight found me at our London Sarcoma Support Group’s party to celebrate Sarcoma Awareness Week held at Maggie’s Cancer Caring Centre in Fulham, London.  An amazing vital group of patients, carers and friends.  The volume was high and the laughter loud.  There was also tears and supportive hugs.  It was lovely to meet some of the group members’ husbands, wives, children, partners who were also there supporting them.

Sadly one of the group had lost his wife only a few weeks ago and I hope found comfort in our company.  Another has just found out his cancer has returned and he is to start yet another course of chemotherapy to keep it in check.  BUT whatever was happening with each of us in attendance you knew that there was a strong bond of support there and a lot of giggling and laughter.  Despite my not having been to several of the recent monthly meetings due to a number of reasons, I was touched that so many of the group were pleased to see me and remembered what I had been diagnosed with, what I was off doing shortly after we last met.

You see I’m not a ‘support group’ sort of a person.  For those of you that know me well, you’ll know that despite my putting this blog up in the public domain, I’m actually fairly private about a lot.  For some reason, for me, I find it useful to be able to use this blog to be open!  I also know that my family can read it and know what’s going on but don’t need to speak about it or mention it – we’re not good at talking!

All that said, I enjoy attending the sarcoma support group… but I perhaps sometimes appear to the group as the one ‘who’s sorted’ and is ‘supporting’ rather than ‘needing support’!