The AJCC recently published the 8th edition of its cancer staging system. Significant changes were made to the staging algorithm for soft tissue sarcoma (STS) of the extremities or trunk, including the addition of 2 additional T (size) classifications in lieu of tumor depth and grouping lymph node metastasis (LNM) with distant metastasis as stage IV disease. Whether these changes improve staging system performance is questionable. This retrospective cohort analysis of 21,396 adult patients with STS of the extremity or trunk in the SEER database compares the AJCC 8th edition staging system with the 7th edition and a newly proposed staging algorithm using a variety of statistical techniques. The effect of tumor size on disease-specific survival was assessed by flexible, nonlinear Cox proportional hazard regression using restricted cubic splines and fractional polynomials. The slope of covariate-adjusted log hazards for sarcoma-specific survival decreases for tumors >8 cm in greatest dimension, limiting prognostic information contributed by the new T4 classification in the AJCC 8th edition. Anatomic depth independently provides significant prognostic information. LNM is not equivalent to distant, non-nodal metastasis. Based on these findings, an alternative staging system is proposed and demonstrated to outperform both AJCC staging schemes. The analyses presented also disclose no evidence of improved clinical performance of the 8th edition compared with the previous edition. The AJCC 8th edition staging system for STS is no better than the previous 7th edition. Instead, a proposed staging system based on histologic grade, tumor size, and anatomic depth shows significantly higher predictive accuracy, with higher model concordance than either AJCC staging system. Changes to existing staging systems should improve the performance of prognostic models. Until such improvements are documented, AJCC committees should refrain from modifying established staging schemes.
Copyright © 2018 by the National Comprehensive Cancer Network.