Long-term results in children with head and neck rhabdomyosarcoma: A report from the Italian Soft Tissue Sarcoma Committee

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Rhabdomyosarcoma (RMS) occurring at nonparameningeal head and neck (NPM-HN) sites carries a better prognosis than parameningeal RMS and some other sites. We analyzed the treatments administered and results obtained in patients with localized NPM-HN RMS, included in the protocols coordinated by the Italian Soft Tissue Sarcoma Committee (STSC), in an effort to identify prognostic factors that could facilitate the tailoring of treatment.


Sixty-six patients up to 18 years of age with previously untreated, localized NPM-HN RMS were prospectively registered in three consecutive protocols: RMS79, RMS88, and RMS96. Primary surgery was recommended when complete tumor resection was deemed feasible without mutilations. In other cases, only a biopsy was performed, followed by chemotherapy and delayed surgery and/or radiotherapy (RT).


NPM-HN RMS showed favorable characteristics: 72.7% were <5 cm, 72.7% were T1, and 80.3% were N0. With a median follow-up of 16 years (range 7–27), the 10-year progression-free survival and overall survival for the whole group were 65.1% (confidence interval [CI]: 52.3–75.3) and 74.2% (CI: 61.8–83.1). Progressive improvement has been seen in the successive protocols. Age and RT emerged as independent prognostic factors. The group of young children (age Conclusion:

The experience of the Italian STSC confirms that NPM-HN RMS has a favorable prognosis, which has improved over the years due to a better, multimodal treatment approach. RT has an important role, but different modalities such as proton therapy and brachytherapy should be explored in systematic ways in very young children.

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