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Recent advances in understanding and managing rhabdomyosarcoma.

Rhabdomyosarcoma is the most common childhood soft tissue sarcoma and the fourth most common pediatric solid tumor. For most patients, treatment consists of a multimodality approach, including chemotherapy, surgery, and/or radiotherapy. To guide treatment, patients with rhabdomyosarcoma are risk stratified based on a number of factors. These factors include clinical group, which depends largely on the extent of resection and nodal involvement, and stage, which takes into account tumor size, invasion, nodal involvement, and disease site. Histology of the tumor and age at diagnosis are also factored into risk stratification. Recent advances in understanding the biology of the disease have allowed for the further sub-classification of rhabdomyosarcoma. In addition, elucidation of additional clinical features associated with poor prognosis has allowed for better understanding of risk and provides more clarity regarding those patients who require more intensive therapy. Many areas of active investigation are ongoing, including the following: further delineation of the biological underpinnings of the various disease subtypes with the possibility of molecularly targeted therapy; a better understanding of clinical risk factors, including the evaluation and management of potentially involved lymph nodes; determination of the appropriate role of post-treatment imaging and assessment of response to therapy; and incorporation of advanced radiotherapeutic techniques, including conformal intensity-modulated photon and proton therapy.

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