Treat can­cers by type not lo­ca­tion, new study sug­gests

The Sunday Telegraph - - News - By Chris Dyer

CAN­CER should not be treated based on where it is first found in the body, but de­pend­ing on the type of tu­mour, sci­en­tists have said.

Un­til now medics have treated can­cers ac­cord­ing to where they orig­i­nate, such as the lungs, bowel, or breasts.

But a new study has found that all 33 can­cer types can be re­clas­si­fied into 28 dif­fer­ent molec­u­lar types, or “clus­ters”, based on their cel­lu­lar and ge­netic make-up and in­de­pen­dent of their ori­gin in the body.

“It’s time to re­write the text­books on can­cer,” said Pro­fes­sor Christo­pher Benz, from the Buck In­sti­tute for Re­search on Ag­ing in Cal­i­for­nia. “It’s time to break down the si­los in clin­i­cal on­col­ogy that make it dif­fi­cult for pa­tients to take ad­van­tage of this par­a­digm shift in can­cer clas­si­fi­ca­tion.”

Re­searchers mapping can­cer genomes, as part of the Pan-Can­cer At­las project, found one tu­mour type was in 25 parts of the body and would have pre­vi­ously all been treated dif­fer­ently.

This dis­cov­ery means that in some cases med­i­ca­tions for one type of can­cer should be used to treat an­other and drugs used for treat­ing other con­di­tions, such as rheuma­toid arthri­tis, could also be used to fight can­cer.

Dr Fran­cis Collins, di­rec­tor of the Na­tional In­sti­tutes of Health (NIH), which funded the US re­search, said: “This anal­y­sis pro­vides can­cer re­searchers with un­prece­dented un­der­stand­ing of how, where, and why tu­mours arise in hu­mans, en­abling bet­ter-in­formed clin­i­cal tri­als and fu­ture treat­ments.”

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