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Mount Sinai hosts the first International Sarcoma Symposium

June 13, 2014

As one of the top sarcoma centres in the world, Mount Sinai Hospital in association with The Kristen Ann Carr Fund, recently hosted leading clinicians and researchers from around the world for the first International Sarcoma Symposium. Attendees from Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, Cleveland Clinic and some from as far away as Hong Kong travelled to Toronto to learn about the latest in sarcoma research as well as medical and surgical approaches to treatment and patient care.

Unique to the conference was the inclusion of a patient symposium that invited sarcoma survivors and caregivers to discuss coping strategies unique to sarcoma patients and their families.  “Sarcoma is a rare form of cancer and can be isolating,” says Dr. Rebecca Gladdy who spearheaded the conference. “Sarcoma often develops in people who are otherwise very healthy, and in young people where sickness and mortality is not typically discussed. The goal of the patient symposium was to bring sarcoma patients together so that they can share their coping experiences and to help build a sarcoma cancer community in Canada.” 

Sarcoma Patient

Sarcoma survivor Tammy Nickle attended the patient symposium with her mother and former caregiver Brenda Nickle (left) and her newborn son. Tammy had surgery at Mount Sinai for Ewing’s sarcoma when she was 25.

Sarcoma is a rare form of cancer that develops in connective tissues like bone, muscle or fat.  It is most commonly associated with the cancer that took the life of Terry Fox in 1981. But thanks to advancements over the years in sarcoma research and treatment, if Terry Fox were diagnosed today he would have likely survived. When he was treated, only 5 per cent of patient cases survived and amputation rate was 100 per cent. Today surgical oncologists spare limbs in almost all sarcoma surgeries and survival rate is over 80 per cent.

As Ontario’s designated sarcoma treatment centre, Mount Sinai was the ideal setting for the international symposium. Under the leadership of Dr. Jay Wunder, Surgeon in-Chief, Mount Sinai’s Sarcoma Centre has established excellent outcomes for patients in part due to the hospital’s highly specialized and dedicated sarcoma surgical team. Mount Sinai’s sarcoma team has also helped transform treatment with the establishment of new international standards such as treating patients with pre-operative radiation.

To conclude the day, a reception was held in honour of Dr. Martin Blackstein, who has been practising medical oncology at Mount Sinai for more than 40 years and helped put Mount Sinai on the map as an internationally recognized treatment centre for sarcoma.

Drs. Blacstein, Gladdy and Wunder

Drs. Martin Blackstein, Rebecca Gladdy and Jay Wunder