Ewing's Family of Tumors

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Ewing’s Family of Tumors: A Comprehensive Guide


Ewing’s family of tumors (EFTs) is a group of rare, aggressive cancers that primarily affect children and young adults. These tumors originate from primitive neuroectodermal cells, which are immature cells that have the potential to develop into various neural tissues. EFTs are characterized by their rapid growth and tendency to metastasize (spread) to other parts of the body.

Types of EFTs

The EFTs include three main types:

  • Ewing sarcoma: The most common type, accounting for approximately 90% of EFTs. It typically affects adolescents and young adults, and most commonly arises in the bones of the pelvis, extremities, and chest wall.
  • Primitive neuroectodermal tumor (PNET): A less common type that affects younger children. It can arise in either bone or soft tissue, and is most often found in the central nervous system (brain and spinal cord), abdomen, or chest.
  • Askin tumor: A rare type that affects young children and adolescents. It is a neuroblastoma-like tumor that arises in the chest wall or other areas of the body.

Signs and Symptoms

The signs and symptoms of EFTs can vary depending on the location of the tumor. Common symptoms include:

  • Bone pain and swelling
  • Fever and chills
  • Night sweats
  • Weight loss
  • Fatigue
  • Headaches (for PNETs)
  • Difficulty breathing (for tumors in the chest)


Diagnosing EFTs typically involves a combination of physical examination, imaging tests, and biopsy. Imaging tests, such as X-rays, computed tomography (CT) scans, and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), can reveal the location and size of the tumor. A biopsy, in which a small sample of tissue is removed for examination under a microscope, is necessary to confirm the diagnosis.


The treatment for EFTs is complex and individualized, and may include a combination of:

  • Chemotherapy: Uses drugs to kill cancer cells.
  • Radiation therapy: Uses high-energy radiation to shrink or destroy tumors.
  • Surgery: Aims to remove the tumor and any surrounding cancerous tissue.
  • Stem cell transplant: A procedure that involves using healthy stem cells to replace diseased bone marrow.
  • Targeted therapy: Uses drugs that target specific molecules involved in tumor growth and survival.


The prognosis for EFTs depends on factors such as the stage of the disease, the location of the tumor, and the patient’s age and overall health. With early diagnosis and aggressive treatment, approximately 60-70% of patients with EFTs can achieve long-term survival. However, the prognosis for advanced or recurrent disease is less favorable.

Risk Factors

The exact cause of EFTs is unknown, but some risk factors have been identified, including:

  • Radiation exposure: Children who have undergone radiation therapy for other cancers are at an increased risk of developing EFTs.
  • Hereditary factors: Some genetic mutations have been linked to a slightly increased risk of EFTs.
  • Environmental factors: Exposure to certain chemicals, such as dioxins, may be associated with an increased risk of EFTs.


There is no known way to prevent EFTs. However, early detection and treatment are crucial for improving outcomes. Regular check-ups and prompt evaluation of any suspicious symptoms are recommended.

Research and Advances

Ongoing research is focused on developing more effective treatments and improving the prognosis for EFTs. Areas of investigation include:

  • Molecular profiling: Identifying specific genetic alterations in EFTs to guide targeted therapies.
  • Immunotherapy: Using the body’s immune system to fight cancer cells.
  • Novel therapies: Exploring new treatment approaches, such as antibody-drug conjugates and oncolytic viruses.

Support for Patients and Families

Navigating an EFT diagnosis can be challenging. Support groups and organizations provide valuable resources and emotional support for patients and their loved ones. Some notable organizations include:

  • The Children’s Oncology Group (COG)
  • The National Cancer Institute (NCI)
  • The American Cancer Society
  • The Ewing’s Sarcoma Family of Tumors Foundation


Ewing’s family of tumors is a rare but serious group of cancers that can significantly impact the lives of children and young adults. Early diagnosis, aggressive treatment, and ongoing research are essential for improving outcomes and providing support to families affected by this disease.

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