Sarcoma Day: raising cancer awareness and providing a dose of laughter medicine


McGill University Health Centre sarcoma patients, medical staff and researchers have teamed up to hold the first annual MUHC Sarcoma Day. The event aims to raise awareness of Sarcoma - a devastating but little known cancer - and provide a forum for health professionals to exchange ideas and initiatives.

"Sarcoma Day offers a great opportunity for the public, media, health professionals and patients to meet, learn, exchange ideas and discover support networks related to this disease," says Dr. Robert Turcotte, event organizer, Chief of the Department of Orthopaedics and Medical Director of the MUHC Sarcoma Program. The morning session is aimed at health professionals, allowing them to discuss new initiatives, diagnoses and treatments; the afternoon session strikes a lighter note, raising spirits, providing patient support and sharing survival stories.

Joe Cacchione - a comedian and principal of Ecole Secondaire d'Anjou - is one of Dr. Turcotte's patients at the MUHC and will attend the event to raise hopes through humour. "Cancer is a serious condition of course," says Mr. Cacchione. "But laughter brings people together, reduces stress and is, after all, one of the best medicines." Mr. Cacchione was diagnosed with angiosarcoma cancer in 2004."

Sarcoma is a relatively rare group of cancers in adults, but is much more common in children. The word sarcoma refers to cancers that affect the bones, cartilage, fat and muscle and other soft tissues. Each cancer is given a name depending on the tissue from which it arises. For example, osteosarcoma arises from bone. This resulted in the amputation of Terry Fox's leg, ultimately leading to his Marathon of Hope in 1980. Soft tissue sarcoma also led to the death of Canadian jazz legend Jeff Healy in March.

The MUHC, which is one of three cancer centres in Quebec, treats approximately 100 sarcoma patients each year and runs an active research program. "The MUHC is strong in sarcoma research," says Dr. Turcotte. "We have a multidisciplinary team of experts devoted to sarcoma research, spanning the range of disease types and ages from childhood to adulthood, and working in collaboration with other centers in Quebec, Canada and internationally." Because of its rarity, sarcoma does not raise as much interest in the field of cancer research and from granting agencies: scientists are still unsure what cause sarcomas to develop.

Treatment options for sarcomas depend on the stage of the cancer. They are often treated through a combination of surgery, with or without chemotherapy or radiation therapy. However, around half of these cancers are resistant to treatment, highlighting the need for new therapeutic approaches. In Canada approximately 5000 patients and their families struggle with sarcoma. About 1200 cases are diagnosed each year and about 600 people die from the condition.

This event is supported by: The Cedars Cancer Institute, Fonds de recherche de santé du Quebec, the Canadian Cancer Society and the MUHC Musculoskeletal Oncology Fund.

Note to Media: Media are invited to meet the MUHC Public Relations representative at the Cedar entrance of the Montreal General Hospital, 1650 Cedar Avenue, at 2:15 pm on Friday, May 23, 2008.

When Friday 23 May 2008 from 1pm to 5:15pm
Where Livingston Hall (room L6-500), 6th floor, Wing L
Montreal General Hospital of the MUHC
1650 Cedar Avenue
Who Dr. Robert Turcotte, Chief of the MUHC
Department of Orthopaedics and Medical
Director of the MUHC Sarcoma Program

Joe Cacchione , principal of Ecole Secondaire d'Anjou,
standup comedian and sarcoma cancer patient

The McGill University Health Centre (MUHC) is a comprehensive academic health institution with an international reputation for excellence in clinical programs, research and teaching. Its partner hospitals are the Montreal Children's Hospital, the Montreal General Hospital, the Royal Victoria Hospital, the Montreal Neurological Hospital, the Montreal Chest Institute and the Lachine Hospital. The goal of the MUHC is to provide patient care based on the most advanced knowledge in the health care field and to contribute to the development of new

Contact Information

Seeta Ramdas
Communications Coordinator, MUHC Public Relations and Communications
seeta.ramdas [at]
Office Phone: 
(514) 843 1560