Could you live without blood?

Short answer? No, and it turns out tumours can’t either. Metastatic soft-tissue sarcoma a rare and aggressive cancer that starts in the connective tissue e.g. muscle and fat, accounts for just 1% of all adult cancers, but kills 50% of people with advanced tumours in 12 months. Treatment typically involves chemotherapy that targets DNA replication— not blood supply.

But using treatments known as antiangiogenics that work by blocking angiogenesis — the process whereby new blood vessels grow from old with chemotherapy, have been shown to slow the growth of malignant soft-tissue tumours in the muscle walls of the gastrointestinal (GI) tract.

Unfortunately however, few studies have focussed on the effectiveness of these treatments — one being pazopanib, in rarer tumours that don’t start in the GI tract or fatty tissue.

To investigate how effective pazopanib was at slowing the progression of tumours that don’t begin in the fatty tissue, van de Graff and colleagues conducted PALETTE — a phase three international study that treated patients with either pazopanib or placebo when their first-line chemotherapy treatment had failed.

What they found was actually quite interesting – patients who received pazopanib took 3 months longer to progress after receiving treatment compared with those who were given a placebo. Targeting the tumours’ blood supply, therefore, could be a meaningful avenue to pursue alongside treatments that disrupt DNA replication. But whether it can be an effective treatment in other cancers, is another question entirely.


van der Graaf, W.T.A et al 2012. Pazopanib for metastatic soft-tissue sarcoma (PALETTE):a randomised, double-blind, placebo-controlled phase 3 trial.The Lancet, 39, p.1879-1886.