Sarcoma Program

Learn About Your Cancer

Sarcomas are divided into two categories: soft tissue tumors and bone tumors. Each of those categories is further broken down into dozens of different kinds of cancers. Finding the right cancer—your cancer—is the main focus of the sarcoma team at Holden Comprehensive Cancer Center at the University of Iowa.

Here are some of the most common bone tumors and soft tissue tumors:

  • Bone Tumors
    Thirty years ago the treatment of bone sarcoma was essentially confined to amputation. Today, more than 95% of bone sarcoma cases involve limb salvage surgery. Orthopedic tumor surgeon Ben Miller, MD explains what makes limb salvage surgery possible in this video.
  • Benign Aneurysmal bone cyst
    • These tumors arise without any known cause.
    • It is thought to be a reactive lesion that may be caused by a vascular malformation or injury.
    • If surgery is indicated, it can be treated by scrapping out the lesion and replacing it with bone graft.
    • Sometimes, fragile bone must be augmented with plates, screws, or rods.
  • Benign Lipoma
    • These tumors are slow growing deposits of fat cells.
    • It is common to have more than one, and they occasionally run in families.
    • If the tumors begin to grow abnormally fast or become large they may need to be removed.
    • They can also be removed for cosmetic reasons.
  • Chondroblastoma
    • This is a rare, benign tumor found in long bones usually in the lower extremity.
    • The diagnosis can be made by x-ray; sometimes a CT or MRI is indicated.
    • Treatment consists of scrapping out the bone and possible reconstruction.
  • Chondromyxoid fibroma
    • This is a benign lesion of cartilage origin.
    • It most often occurs in the lower leg and can often be diagnosed by x-ray.
    • It can be treated with surgery.
  • Clear cell sarcoma
  • Desmoid tumors
  • Enchondroma
  • Ewing sarcoma
    • Ewing sarcoma is a malignant (cancerous) bone tumor that affects children.
  • Fibrosarcoma
  • Fibrous dysplasia
  • Giant cell tumor
  • Liposarcoma
  • Leiomyosarcoma
  • Osteoblastoma
    • This is a benign bone lesion that may grow over time.
    • It resembles a number of other benign lesions on x-ray and is usually addressed surgically.
  • Osteochondroma
  • Osteoid osteoma
  • Malignant Chondrosarcoma
    • These tumors can occur in any location; however, they are most commonly located in the pelvis, femur, tibia, and humerus.
    • These often can be diagnosed with an x-ray, but a CT or MRI may be helpful.
    • These tumors are treated by surgical removal.
  • Malignant fibrous histiocytoma
  • Metastatic bone disease
  • Multiple myeloma
    • Patients with multiple myeloma develop an excessive number of abnormal plasma cells in their bone marrow.
    • The cancerous plasma cells multiply, building up in the marrow and crowding out normal, healthy blood cells.
    • This buildup of myeloma cells can lead to various medical problems and complications, like a reduction in blood cell production, damage to the surrounding bones, organ damage, and problems with blood clotting and circulation.
  • Nonossifying fibroma
    • These are common developmental abnormalities that occur in 35 percent of children and are often found incidentally.
    • They are diagnosed by x-ray and observed over time.
    • No treatment is considered unless the lesion becomes symptomatic.
  • Osteosarcoma
  • Pigmented villonodular synovitis
  • Rhabdomyosarcoma
    • Rhabdomyosarcoma is a cancerous (malignant) tumor of the muscles that are attached to the bones.
  • Soft tissue sarcomas
  • Soft Tissue Tumors


Orthopedic tumor surgeon Ben Miller, MD discusses various treatment plans for soft tissue sarcoma.

  • Synovial cell sarcoma
    • Unicameral bone cyst
      • These lesions are most active during skeletal growth and often heal spontaneously at maturity.
      • Many times they are without symptoms until the bone actually breaks through the cyst.
      • If a fracture occurs, the cyst occasionally heals without surgical intervention.
      • However, sometimes it is necessary to place bone graft in the cyst to aid in healing and prevent future breaks.

    At University of Iowa Holden Comprehensive Cancer Center, our highly experienced physicians and staff are dedicated to taking care of you, not just your cancer. As part of a nationally recognized cancer center, our team focuses on every aspect of sarcoma. Our clinicians are also top researchers finding new and innovative treatments and therapies while identifying genetic links that may pinpoint risk. We are on the leading edge of sarcoma research, always searching for ways to make the best cancer treatment even better.

    Orthopaedic Oncology is a specialty that addresses both benign and malignant bone and soft tissue tumors. Our physicians, staff, and surgeons appreciate the level of anxiety associated with a potential diagnosis of a musculoskeletal tumor. With our experience, training, and desire for excellence, we strive to address your concerns by providing the highest quality of efficient and effective treatment.

    Cancer Care With You in Mind

    Holden Comprehensive Cancer Center is the only institution in Iowa to hold the prestigious designation of being a Comprehensive Cancer Center by the National Cancer Institute (NCI), putting us in the top 4 percent of the approximately 1,500 cancer centers in the United States. A recent study published in the journal Cancer showed that patients treated at NCI designated cancer centers have better survival outcomes than patients treated at non-NCI designated cancer centers.

    Our teams of experts who have expertise in clinical, laboratory, and population-based research will design a treatment plan that is tailored to your individual needs. Our doctors and staff are on top of the newest developments in cancer research, treatment, and diagnosis.

    Our multidisciplinary team is ready to offer all of the services you need for your sarcoma. We know no one wants to stay in the hospital longer than necessary, so we work especially hard to make sure your treatment options are done on an out-patient basis, allowing you to rest in the comfort of your own home.

    Team-Based Approach

    We are proud to be a part of the University of Iowa Sarcoma Group. This collaborative association consists of physicians from surgical oncology, adult and pediatric medical oncology, radiation oncology, pathology, and radiology. We work together to determine the best treatment for each individual.

    Patients are managed using this team approach to insure the delivery of quality care in a compassionate, efficient, and innovative manner. Our team of specialists focuses not just on sarcoma, but on your sarcoma.

    Services That Set Us Apart

    • Experts focused only on sarcoma. Our team of specialists focuses not just on the more than 50 kinds of sarcoma, but on your sarcoma, whether it is a soft tissue sarcoma or bone cancer. They understand the disease and know about the most recent treatment options from chemotherapy and radiation to surgery.
    • Multiple treatment options. Specialists at the University of Iowa Department of Orthopaedics and Rehabilitation maintain cutting edge surgical and non-surgical approaches to patients with challenging bone and soft tissue tumors. From establishing a diagnosis to planning and coordinating complex medical and surgical treatments, the surgical oncology specialists have a primary goal of providing outstanding and comprehensive care for patients with these diagnoses.
    • Innovative clinical trials. Our physicians and surgeons are always recruiting for clinical trials, aimed at finding new, more effective treatment options and therapies. Talk to your doctor to see if you qualify for any trials.
    • New infusion suite designed with patients in mind. Our infusion suite was designed with patient input to create a comfortable, welcoming environment. Take our virtual tour.

    What to Bring to Your Appointment

    There are a few things that you can bring to make your visit to University of Iowa Holden Comprehensive Cancer Center as efficient as possible.


    • It is important to bring a comprehensive CD of the most recent imaging studies.
    • Occasionally, your local doctor will have this sent prior, but it is often most effective to hand-carry these disks.
    • If there is any question about what studies are necessary to bring, please call our office in advance of your appointment.

    Paper reports

    If you have any imaging studies, previous surgeries, or tissue biopsies, it is helpful to have your local doctor send these reports or to bring them with you.

    Past medical history

    Knowing your past medical history and list of current medications is helpful in providing our physicians your most accurate health status.

    Friend or family member

    It is often helpful to bring someone with you on your visit to help absorb the information and ask any potential questions.

    The Power of Clinical Trials

    Clinical trials is where research meets patient care. A great deal of research is done behind the scenes in laboratories, long before clinical trials can even begin. Clinical trials are research studies that test out the latest treatments and drugs that are not yet available to the public. These new treatments have the potential to improve your quality of life or increase your chances of survival.

    See a full list and learn more about sarcoma clinical trials at Holden Comprehensive Cancer Center.

    New Grant Brings New Opportunity in Sarcoma Research

    Our team begins a new clinical trial aimed at using vitamin C to fight cancer.

    Support Our Mission

    Our work is made possible in part by the support of donors through charitable giving. Friends of Holden Comprehensive Cancer Center can become partners in the effort to control and ultimately cure cancer. Learn how you can help us make a difference for cancer patients.

    2016 was an exciting year for the Sarcoma Program, bringing together new team members, supporters, and advocates looking to help make a difference. Read more in our 2016 end-of-year report.

    Sarcoma Multidisciplinary Team

    Research Nurses

    • Nancy McCurdy, RN
    • Mimi McKay, RN