Angiosarcoma rates are rising. A new study reveals implications for breast cancer care and research.

April 25, 2024 Swedish Cancer Team

[4 min read]

  • The largest study of angiosarcoma published to date describes the incidence and presentation patterns of angiosarcoma, a rare but potentially deadly cancer. 
  • The study, published in April 2024 in JAMA, found a marked increase in angiosarcoma among women previously treated for cancer, suggesting breast cancer treatment, especially radiation, was causing many of these angiosarcomas.
  • The study was co-authored by three Swedish oncology experts. 

Angiosarcoma an often-aggressive type of cancer that forms in the body’s connective tissues, including the bones, muscles, fat, and nerves. While relatively rare, the incidence of angiosarcoma in the United States has increased markedly in recent years.

Recently, the largest angiosarcoma study to date provided new evidence of this disease’s incidence, characteristics, and change over time in the United States. The multi-site study's findings were published on April 12 in the high-impact journal, JAMA Network Open. Three Providence Swedish oncology experts are among research's co-authors: Kelly Paulson, M.D., who heads the Center for Immuno-oncology at the Paul G. Allen Research Center at the Swedish Cancer Institute, Min Park, M.D., a medical oncologist at the Swedish Cancer Institute, and Michaela Tsai, M.D., medical director of breast medical oncology at the Swedish Cancer Institute.

The findings have significant implications for the future of breast cancer care and research. Key conclusions include: 

  • U.S. incidence of angiosarcoma doubled from 2001 (657 newly diagnosed cases) to 2019 (1312 newly diagnosed cases). 
  • This rapid increase was largely driven by breast/chest wall angiosarcomas in women previously treated for cancer.
  • These findings suggest that breast cancer treatment (especially radiation) was causing many of these angiosarcomas. 

According to Dr. Paulson, these findings illustrate the need for further studies into the benefits and risks of regional radiation therapy. Several studies related to reducing or omitting radiation for breast cancer treatment, as well as multiple new radiation approaches to minimize radiation toxicity, are ongoing. The Swedish Cancer Institute is among the sites participating in the Tailor RT trial, which is comparing low risk breast cancer receiving the usual care (including regional radiation therapy) with the same cancer receiving no regional radiation therapy. Researchers want to see if not giving this type of radiation treatment works as well at preventing breast cancer recurrence.

Dr. Paulson explains, “The hope of this ongoing research is to reduce the number of women who need radiation as part of their treatment, and, ultimately, to reduce the risk of short-term and long-term side effects including secondary cancers like angiosarcoma.” 

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