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Spotlight on rare tumors in hunt for new cancer treatments

ESMO Conference on Sarcoma and GIST

New breakthrough treatments for the most common cancers could soon come from cutting-edge research into some of the world's rarest tumors.

At the ESMO Conference on Sarcoma and GIST, to be held in Milan, Italy, on 9 and 10 March 2010, researchers and some of the world's leading experts will discuss exciting new science on sarcomas—a group of rare tumors found in muscle, blood vessels, deep skin tissues, nerves and the tissues around joints.

Although these cancers only affect a relatively small number of people, researchers say understanding them could have far wider ramifications.

"Because sarcomas have well-characterized molecular alterations, they are an ideal model for developing new therapies," says conference Co-Chair Dr. Jean-Yves Blay. "Sarcomas represent models for the development of targeted therapies in cancer."

This is a crucial period in sarcoma research, Dr. Blay said. "We are right in the middle of some breakthroughs. Novel treatments are now emerging for a large number of sarcoma types."

"Building on a precise understanding of the molecular biology of these tumors collected over the last decades, it is now possible to develop novel treatments targeting the initial molecular alterations driving these tumors," says Dr. Angelo Paolo Dei Tos, conference Co-Chair. "The aim of this meeting will be to understand these novel strategies for targeted agents in these tumors, with practical consequences in more frequent tumor types".

"Sarcomas are currently under the spotlight because they lend themselves to be targeted by the newest anticancer drugs. Of course, such new therapies need to be used in a strategically appropriate way," says conference Co-Chair, Dr. Paolo G Casali. "This requires a deep integrated approach, bringing together highly diverse areas of expertise, from molecular biologists to surgeons, from radiation therapists to medical oncologists. The strong, global faculty of this sarcoma conference reflects ongoing attempts to take up the challenge in this family of rare cancers."

So far, researchers have identified around 50 different kinds of soft-tissue sarcomas. Each of them is rare, although together they affect about 30,000 people in Europe each year. They include GIST, or gastrointestinal stromal tumor, a type of sarcoma that starts in the wall of the gastrointestinal tract.

More than 360 specialists in sarcoma and GIST are attending the conference, which is organized by the European Society for Medical Oncology (ESMO) in cooperation with the Milan Istituto Nazionale Tumori, with the support of Conticanet, a EU-funded project for clinical research on connective tissue cancers in Europe, and Eurobonet, the first European network of excellence dedicated to bone tumors.

The conference will have a particular focus on the molecular and pathological bases of soft tissue sarcomas and GIST, aiming to give a perspective on the state of the art in medical treatment and what new approaches are coming.

The ESMO Symposium on Sarcoma and GIST will take place in Milan, Italy on 9 and 10 March. The meeting venue is the Starthotels Rosa, which is located near the city center (Piazza Fontana 3, 20122 Milan).

Services for media representatives

Journalists have the possibility to schedule one-on-one interviews with speakers, both in person and remotely. Please contact the ESMO Communication Dept. at to book a telephone interview or to register to attend the meeting.

The conference full program is available at

About the European Society for Medical Oncology (ESMO)

The European Society for Medical Oncology (ESMO) is the leading European non-profit, professional organization for medical oncology promoting multidisciplinary cancer treatment around the world.

ESMO unites medical oncologists and other oncology specialists, healthcare professionals, caregivers, patients, policy-makers and all the key stakeholders in a global alliance committed to eradicating cancer and ensuring equal access to high quality treatment for all patients. Through state-of-the-art education and training programs, ESMO plays an instrumental role in providing the oncology community with the most up-to-date scientific research and information available. ESMO is dedicated to educating and supporting oncologists, optimizing patient care, disseminating cancer-specific information to the public, and advocating patient rights. As an authoritative voice in the fight against cancer, ESMO provides both the platform and the consultative expertise to influence national and international organizations as well as European authorities, in order to establish common standards for a multidisciplinary approach to cancer treatment. Through its flagship journal, Annals of Oncology, ESMO publishes articles on all aspects of clinical oncology.

To find out more about ESMO please visit


CONTICANET is a European network of excellence entirely dedicated to connective tissue tumors of the soft part and viscera, working hand in hand with the twin partner Eurobonet itself dedicated to bone sarcomas. Seeking to promote a better understanding of these rare tumors, and to harmonize and optimize their treatment on the European level, the CONTICANET network is especially committed to the characterization of novel molecular entities, identification of the mechanisms of oncogenesis, organizing annotated tumor banks, preclinical testing, and clinical investigations of novel agents and local treatment options, all this in partnership with patients' associations, and with the aim to promote novel standards of treatment and management of tumors, with ESMO.

To find out more about CONTICANET please visit

About EuroBoNet

EuroBoNet is the first European Network of excellence dedicated to bone tumors seeking to integrate research among top notch bone sarcoma referral centers. Integration and optimization of technical platforms, diagnostic expertise and research skills represent the backbone of the consortium.

To find more about EuroBoNet please visit

About the Istituto Nazionale per lo Studio e la Cura dei Tumori

The Istituto Nazionale Tumori, Milano, is the largest cancer clinical research institute in Italy, with more than 400 beds in service and 250 staff clinicians, as well as over 300 experimental oncology personnel. While its history dates back to 1928, more than 13,000 in-patients are currently admitted each year, and more than 800,000 out-patient visits are carried out. Forty percent of patients come from outside the Lombardy region. All the more, the institute serves as a national referral center for adult soft tissue sarcomas, with more than one thousand patients seen for consultation each year, and 250 undergoing surgery of localized sarcomas. It coordinates the 'Italian Network on Rare Tumors,' a national effort aimed at improving quality of care on rare adult solid tumors in Italy, through distant patient-sharing on a nationwide basis. Mainly through its active links with the Italian Sarcoma Group and the EORTC Soft Tissue and Bone Sarcoma Group, the Istituto Nazionale Tumori has been involved in most of the major clinical studies performed on adult soft tissue sarcomas and GIST in Europe over the last decades, and also provided several original contributions to basic and translational research as well.

To find out more about the Istituto Nazionale per lo Studio e la Cura dei Tumori please visit

Vanessa Pavinato | EurekAlert!
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