Lifewatch: Sarcoma

Reported by Claire Hosmann - email
Posted by Debra Worley - email

(WECT) - Diseases that affect less than 20,000 people in the United States are known as orphan diseases.

Sometimes they don't get as much attention or research, but there are doctors who are dedicated to finding a cure for these rare diseases.

Four years ago, Jennifer Linn began her battle with Sarcoma, a rare cancer of the body's connective tissues such as muscle and fat.

Dr. Gary Schwartz, the Chief of Sarcoma and Melanoma research at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in Manhattan, is dedicated to finding treatments for orphan cancers that often don't respond to traditional therapies, like chemotherapy.

"Sarcomas for example, chemotherapy works 20-30% of the time and when does work doesn't work often for long," said Schwartz.

Since orphan cancers are rare, there is no incentive for pharmaceutical companies to adopt them and invest in research for new treatments.

Schwartz says learning about treatments for these rare conditions may advance health care for everyone.

"Success in this lab and other like it will be applicable not just to orphan diseases but to the bigger diseases as well," said Schwartz.

Jennifer is one of the few people who do respond to chemotherapy treatments, but the road ahead will be rough.  She needs to be on chemo and will need surgery sometime in the near future.