Rhabdomyosarcoma is a cancer that arises from cells that normally develop into muscle cells. Rhabdomyosarcoma begins when a change or mutation occurs in one of these young cells, called a rhabdomyoblast, allowing the cell to grow uncontrollably and form a cancerous tumor. Almost two-thirds of children with rhabdomyosarcoma are under the age of 10 and this type of cancer may arise virtually anywhere in the body, but some of the most common sites for this tumor are:

  • Around the eye(orbital)
  • In the face near the lower part of the skull (parameningeal)
  • In the face or neck, but far from the lower part of the skull (non-parameningeal)
  • Arms and legs(extremities)
  • Urinary system and reproductive organs such as the bladder, prostate, paratestis (near the testicle) and vagina (genitourinary).

Childhood Cancer – The Facts and Reality

Cancer is the leading cause of death by disease among U.S. children.

  • Rhabdomyosarcoma affects approximately 350 children each year, most commonly found in children less than 15 years old.  Almost two-thirds of children’s rhabdo cases develop in children under 10.
  • In children, there are two major subtypes of Rhabdomyosarcoma, based on the way the tumor cells look under the microscope.
  • Embryonal rhabdomyosarcoma (ERMS) is the most common type of Rhabdomyosarcoma in children.
    • ERMS tends to occur in younger children. Common sites include the eye, known as the orbit, the head and neck, and the genitourinary system.
    • ERMS often occurs in hollow organs that are lined with mucosa (moist tissue), such as the nasal passages, vagina and bladder, and can appear as a botryoid (grape-like) mass on the surface. Tumors having this botryoid histology are a subtype of embryonal RMS.
  • Alveolar rhabdomyosarcoma (ARMS) makes up about 25-40% of Rhabdomyosarcoma in children. This type is more commonly found in adolescents and often occurs on the arms and legs.
  • Most often Rhabdomyosarcoma presents as a mass, but the location of the primary tumor can vary.
  • Under the microscope, Rhabdomyosarcoma can look similar to several other types of children’s cancers such as neuroblastoma, Ewing sarcoma and lymphoma

The Isabella Santos Foundation (ISF) is committed to improving rare pediatric cancer treatment options in an effort to increase survival rates of kids with cancer so they can live their dreams.  Our partnership with Levine Children’s Hospital will fund and create the ISF Rare and Solid Tumor Program.  This $5 million initiative will be designed to research and treat a wide range of deadly pediatric cancers while allowing the hospital to expand their clinical trials and provide extraordinary patient experience for all children and families with rare and solid tumors.

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