What is rhabdomyosarcoma?

Rhabdomyosarcoma is a cancerous tumor that grows in the body's soft tissues (which connect, support or surround organs and other body structures), particularly in the muscles that attach to bone and help the body to move. Just weeks into the life of a developing embryo, rhabdomyoblast cells (which grow into muscle over time) begin to form. These are the cells that can develop into rhabdomyosarcoma. Because this is a cancer of embryonal cells, it is much more common in children, although it can occur in adults.

How we care for rhabdomyosarcoma

Patients with rhabdomyosarcoma are treated at Dana-Farber/Boston Children's Cancer and Blood Disorders Center through our Bone & Soft Tissue Tumor Program. Because rhabdomyosarcoma can develop anywhere in a child’s body and will require surgery as part of treatment, it is important that your child be treated at a center that offers surgical expertise in the part of the body where your child’s tumor appears. At Dana-Farber/Boston Children’s we have urology, gynecology, head and neck, and general surgeons who have specialized expertise in treating these types of tumors in children.

Our center also offers a range of clinical trials for rhabdomyosarcoma, and we are New England's hub for the Children's Oncology Group – an international consortium of cancer treatment centers that conducts studies of pediatric cancers.

Our areas of research for rhabdomyosarcoma

Receiving care at the Dana-Farber/Boston Children's means that your child will have access to therapies being tested by the nation's top researchers in pediatric cancer. We are the New England Phase I Center for the Children's Oncology Group, a group of cancer researchers from around the world dedicated to finding new treatments for pediatric cancer.

Our scientists are conducting numerous research studies to help doctors better understand and treat soft-tissue sarcomas. Treatments being evaluated include angiogenesis inhibitors, which are substances that might be able to prevent the growth of tumors; and biological therapies, which harness the body's immune system to fight cancer or lessen side effects.

For many children with rare or hard-to-treat conditions, clinical trials provide new options