Virginia Commonwealth University

VCU Massey Cancer Center

Treatment for cardiac sarcoma

Specific treatment for cardiac sarcoma will be determined by the physician based on:

  • Your age, overall health and medical history.
  • Extent of the disease.
  • Your tolerance for specific medications, procedures or therapies.
  • Expectations for the course of the disease.
  • Your opinion or preference.

Once a cardiac sarcoma has progressed to the point that symptoms begin to occur, it has often spread to other parts of the body (in 80 percent of cases), making treatment difficult and challenging. This spread to other parts of the body is called metastasis. The type of treatment for cardiac sarcoma depends largely upon the location and size of the tumor, as well as the extent of metastasis.

The physician may determine that the tumor can be removed, which is done with an open-heart surgical procedure. This procedure is often difficult, however, because of the location of the tumor.

In some cases, the sarcoma has invaded the heart to such an extent that it is impossible to remove it completely. In this situation, heart transplantation has been attempted. However, a patient must receive immunosuppressive medication (medications that help to prevent the body from rejecting foreign tissue) after transplant, and this medication may stimulate new growth of sarcoma.

An exciting new prospect for treatment of cardiac sarcoma is autotransplantation. Autotransplantation is a surgical procedure in which the patient’s own heart is removed so that the tumor can be more completely and easily removed from the heart tissue. After the tumor is removed, the heart is replaced into the patient. Because the patient has not received a heart from another person, there is no need for immunosuppressive medications.