Eighty-six patients with locally advanced, high-grade soft tissue sarcomas of the extremities were studied prospectively in order to determine the efficacy of hyperthermic perfusion (HP) or hyperthermic antiblastic perfusion (HAP) as the first step of a combined multimodality therapy. The immediate response was evaluated in terms of tumor regression, and results confirmed the in vivo sensitivity of human sarcomas to the selective antineoplastic action of heat alone or combined with drugs (melphalan, actinomycin D, and cis-platinum). HAP has been shown to be simpler and safer than HP, and it is now currently routinely employed. As far as the long-term cure is concerned, all the patients have been evaluated for functional results, locoregional control, and survival, according to the different treatment schedules. The first clinical trials employed HP or HAP followed by delayed surgery alone. In 11 of 17 evaluable patients treated with HP, and in 17 of 29 treated with HAP, conservative surgery could be performed. A high incidence of locoregional relapse (24%) occurred, with low overall survival rates: 50.1% and 31.7% at 5 and 10 years after HP plus surgery, and 47.9% after HAP plus surgery at both 5 and 10 years. The protocol was, therefore, modified to include continuous intraarterial infusion of Adriamycin® (ADR) (17 patients) or radiotherapy (9 patients) before surgery. The results obtained thus far may be summarized as follows: (a) conservative surgery with functional limb-salvage was possible in all patients; (b) the percentage of locoregional failure decreased to approximately 12% after HAP + ADR infusion + excision, the 5- and 10-year overall survival rates both being 77.6 %, and the 5- and 10-year disease-free rates both being 57.8%; (c) no local recurrences occurred in the group treated with HAP + radiotherapy + excision with a 5-year overall survival rate of 71.5% and a 5-year disease-free rate of 50.4%. In conclusion, the combined multimodality approaches employed appear to have improved both functional results and long-term cure, even though these must be further confirmed on a larger series of patients.
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