Onco-regeneration — Restoring function after a soft tissue cancer diagnosis

Sep 8, 2021 | Jennifer O'Hara | @jenohara

Soft tissue sarcoma is a rare form of cancer that has typically been treated using limb salvage surgery combined with radiation therapy. While limb salvage surgery helps patients avoid amputation, patients are often left with substantial functional limitations.

Now advancements in microsurgery are making it possible to harness the body's ability to regenerate muscle strength after surgery to remove soft tissue sarcoma. Mayo Clinic orthopedic oncologists are teaming up with plastic surgeons in a procedure they've coined "onco-regeneration", with a goal of improving a patient’s function and quality of life after surgery.

"Advancements are changing the way we approach patients," says Dr. Matthew Houdek, a Mayo Clinic orthopedic surgeon. "And a big part is the teamwork required to take care of these patients."

Orthopedic surgeons partner with plastic surgeons to deconstruct and reconstruct the tumor location. That includes removing and replacing muscles, nerves and the lymphatic system.

"Advancements in microsurgery techniques have made what we can repair and what we can restore much better," says Dr. Steven Moran, a Mayo Clinic plastic surgeon. "The latest technology now allows us to tension and insert the muscle directly back into the bone. That has been very favorable to restoring function, and it helps us get these patients back to doing what they want to do."

On the Mayo Clinic Q&A podcast, Drs. Houdek and Moran discuss advances in treating soft tissue sarcoma.

To practice safe social distancing during the COVID-19 pandemic, this interview was conducted using video conferencing. The sound and video quality are representative of the technology used. For the safety of its patients, staff and visitors, Mayo Clinic has strict masking policies in place. Anyone shown without a mask was recorded prior to COVID-19 or recorded in an area not designated for patient care, where social distancing and other safety protocols were followed.

Read the full transcript.

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