Malignant Peripheral Nerve Sheath Tumor Treatment

Malignant peripheral nerve sheath tumors (MPNST) are tumors located inside the sheath of a nerve. These tumors are a type of soft-tissue sarcoma. To treat these tumors, a patient sees an oncologist and a neurosurgeon, though a neurosurgeon may also specialize in oncology or have extensive experience in the area to ensure the best possible treatment. Also, patients can benefit greatly from being treated by medical teams that specialize in soft-tissue sarcomas. Treatment of MPNST often involves several steps, depending on the location of the tumor, type of sarcoma, other patient circumstances and overall health.

  1. Types

    • There are three main types of treatment for MPNST. These treatments are surgical removal, radiation and chemotherapy. Doctors often use all three types in combination to create specific individual treatment plans for a patient.

    Surgical Removal

    • The most common treatment for malignant peripheral nerve sheath tumors is surgical resection. Resection of tumors involves the removal of the tumor and surrounding malignant tissue. The doctors analyze the edges of the area removed, and if cancerous cells remain, they excise a little more surrounding tissue. This continues until the tissues the doctors remove are clear of cancer cells, otherwise known as surgically clear borders. This surgical removal technique ensures the best possible prognosis by removing as much of the local cancer as possible.

    Radiation Therapy

    • Radiation is the use of specifically directed ionized radiation in a medical setting. Radiation is a common treatment for these tumors, and is often very effective at different stages. Preoperatively, radiation can reduce the size of a MPNST, making surgery easier for the doctor and therefore reducing the time spent under anesthesia. Intraoperatively, radiation helps doctors achieve clear borders without having to cut out more tissue, which is very important when the tumor is in a peripheral area such as an arm or leg. Clearing the borders without going deeper often saves the patient from an amputation. Postoperatively, radiation can destroy cancer cells that surgery couldn't remove.


    • While chemotherapy is not particularly effective at treating localized MPNST, doctors often use it to treat cancer that has spread to other areas. Chemotherapy, taken either orally or intravenously, involves taking medication that kills cells.


    • MPNST can spread, and they do so, to other areas of the body. Often the lungs are the first area the cancer from these tumors metastasize to, and then the cancer can spread to any other area of the body. MPNST are difficult tumors for doctors to treat, mainly because they are not a common type of cancer. Every treatment plan for MPNST differs based on the patient's specific circumstances and medical needs.

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