In May 2014, a group of skeletal muscle and sarcoma biologists, clinicians, and patient advocates met for 3 days at the Banbury Center at Cold Spring Harbor, NY to discuss current challenges in RMS research and opportunities for developing therapies with the long-term goal of making RMS a uniformly survivable disease. This white paper outlines the clinical and biological problems (identified by this group) as those that should drive future research initiatives.

Download and read the entire paper here.

Rhabdomyosarcoma (RMS) represents a rare, heterogeneous group of mesodermal malignancies with skeletal muscle differentiation. One major subgroup of RMS tumors (so-called “fusion-positive” tumors) carries exclusive chromosomal translocations that join the DNA-binding domain of the PAX3 or PAX7 gene to the transactivation domain of the FOXO1 (previously known as FKHR) gene. Fusion-negative RMS represents a heterogeneous spectrum of tumors with frequent RAS pathway activation. Overtly metastatic disease at diagnosis is more frequently found in individuals with fusion-positive than in those with fusion-negative tumors. RMS is the most common pediatric soft-tissue sarcoma, and approximately 60% of all children and adolescents diagnosed with RMS are cured by currently available multimodal therapies. However, a curative outcome is achieved in <30% of high-risk individuals with RMS, including all those diagnosed as adults, those diagnosed with fusion-positive tumors during childhood (including metastatic and nonmetastatic tumors), and those diagnosed with metastatic disease during childhood (including fusion-positive and fusion-negative tumors). This white paper outlines current challenges in RMS research and their implications for developing more effective therapies. Urgent clinical problems include local control, systemic disease, need for improved risk stratification, and characterization of differences in disease course in children and adults. Biological challenges include definition of the cellular functions of PAX-FOXO1 fusion proteins, clarification of disease heterogeneity, elucidation of the cellular origins of RMS, delineation of the tumor microenvironment, and identification of means for rational selection and testing of new combination therapies. To streamline future therapeutic developments, it will be critical to improve access to fresh tumor tissue for research purposes, consider alternative trial designs to optimize early clinical testing of candidate drugs, coalesce advocacy efforts to garner public and industry support, and facilitate collaborative efforts between academia and industry.
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