Shanghai Cancer Center announced the first use of radiotherapy during surgery on a soft-tissue tumor in the city on Friday. The new technology allowed the patient to keep his leg, the hospital said.

The 61-year-old patient suffered liposarcoma on his left thigh over 10 years ago. He had surgery and chemotherapy repeatedly due to relapses.

After another relapse this year, it was found that the tumor had grown close to nearby nerves and thighbone. Surgery to remove all the cancerous tissue could have meant having to amputate the leg.

To avoid that, doctors from the center took a new approach of treating the tumor with radiotherapy during surgery.

“Radiotherapy during soft-tissue tumor surgery is an innovative method that our hospital first launched in the city,” said Dr Chen Yong from the hospital. “Such method is to conduct single, large-dose radiation on the cancerous place during surgery to improve treatment effects, reduce the impact from in vitro radiotherapy and improve the patient’s quality of life. The patient was able to keep the leg and the risk of relapse was reduced.”

Soft-tissue tumors account for 1 percent of cancers, but can be in any part of the body. About 60 percent are in the limbs, 20 percent in the abdomen 10 percent in the head and 10 percent in other parts of the body.

Surgery is the major treatment, but such tumors have a very high risk of relapse. When the tumor is close to important blood vessels or organs, there is a high risk of damage to their function which would seriously affect a patient’s quality of life.

“The new approach uses radiation to target cancerous places directly during surgery and avoid impacting nearby healthy tissue and organs while enhancing treatment effects,“ Chen said. “We want to use the method to treat tumors while keeping patient’s limbs and reducing the risk of relapse.”

The patient receives radiotherapy during surgery.