Carcinosarcoma, or MMMT (malignant mixed Müllerian tumor), is an aggressive form of cancer affecting the female reproductive organs. It is difficult to detect in the early stages, grows rapidly, and may be resistant to chemotherapy and radiation. Nevertheless, many brave women have survived the battle against this rare cancer, and new breakthroughs in cancer treatments are being discovered every day.
In the past, as a rare disease, with fewer than 1,000 cases diagnosed every year, MMMT has not been at the forefront of cancer research. Now, the Gynecologic Carcinosarcoma Project has been founded to fund research specifically focused on this disease. Dr. Michael Birrer and his research team at Massachusetts General Cancer Center have embarked on a project to generate data which is likely to form the basis for new therapeutic approaches and new hope for GYN carcinosarcoma patients.
Although MMMT constitutes only 3% to 4% of all uterine malignancies, this aggressive cancer accounts for a disproportionate mortality rate. Statistically, the five-year survival rate associated with this disease ranges from 5% to 40%.
The most significant factor in the prognosis with uterine and ovarian carcinosarcoma is the stage of the tumor when it is diagnosed. Unfortunately, it can be difficult to detect in its early stages, and, as MMMT is extremely rare, physicians may not consider, it or rule it out when presented with the symptoms.
Treatment for Carcinosarcoma
The first thing to know is that there is no standard treatment for MMMT. Treatment options vary, depending on the stage of the disease, the metastatic pattern of the tumor, and other factors. Some patients respond well to certain medications, while others fail to respond at all.
Surgery is currently the primary treatment option for early stage MMMT. In later stages, where the cancer cells have metastasized to other sites, surgery is less optimal as microscopic cancer cells are difficult to find during surgery. While some oncologists will recommend surgery and radiation, other oncologists will start with chemotherapy. If you have a response to chemotherapy, you may have a better response to surgery. Additional treatment is typically prescribed due to the high rates of post-operative metastasis and relapse. The therapeutic approach may vary from case to case depending on the characteristics of the tumor and the patient response to therapy. There is broad variation in treatment.
The GCS Project will soon be publishing some MMMT care guidelines based on clinical evidence. Dr. Birrer has agreed to put together a set of treatment guidelines for patients to better understand the range of options available.
An important aspect of your treatment is the oncologist you choose to treat you. Many doctors rarely see cases of MMMT, and it is important to find a medical professional with experience in treating this cancer. As uterine and ovarian carcinosarcoma are rare, you may have to search the country for physician with experience treating this particular type of cancer.
Hope for MMMT Patients
We have heard from women all over the world and we are amazed at the variation in treatment available around the world. We have talked to women in Canada, England, Australia and women from across the USA. The common denominator is that women do not know where to go or what to do. Our mission is to provide help and hope to any women who is seeking answers and to support the research working to find a cure.
With the GCS Project, we have new cancer research in progress focused specifically on MMMT. Carcinosarcoma patients and their families have good reason to hope for new breakthroughs in cancer research and better MMMT treatment options.