Primary heart tumors are rare, and malignant primary heart tumors are only a small subset of these. Most primary malignant heart tumors are sarcomas arising from the cells of the structural elements of the heart such as blood vessels, muscle, connective tissue, fat and even bone. Unlike most malignancies, where cell type often dictates treatment choices and prognosis and is used for classification, the histology in primary cardiac sarcoma plays little role in determining therapeutic options or prognosis. We have found that anatomic location within the heart is the major determining factor in clinical presentation, treatment options and prognosis in cardiac sarcoma. Therefore, we accordingly classify primary cardiac sarcomas into right heart sarcomas, left heart sarcomas and pulmonary artery (PA) sarcomas.
Since the first autopsy report of a primary PA sarcoma in 1923, there have been fewer than 250 cases reported in the English literature. Most of these reports have been single autopsy or case reports, and patient prognosis has generally been dismal. Since few institutions and even fewer individual physicians acquire much exposure to this disease, the diagnostic and treatment approaches have remained unresolved. Our cardiac sarcoma group working at the Methodist DeBakey Heart & Vascular Center and the MD Anderson Cancer Center has undertaken a systematic study of this disease, and operated on 9 patients using a radical resection with curative intent and multimodality approach. Based on this work, we have suggested a diagnostic strategy, treatment approach and staging system for primary PA sarcoma. A substantial improvement in patient survival over historical controls has also been demonstrated and will be discussed in this review.