New cancer classification system help better treat patients
Posted: Aug 19, 2014
A new study, published in the journal Cell, found that classifying cancer tumors by their molecular structure instead of the tissue or organ may lead to more accurate diagnoses and potentially better treatments and outcomes for patients.
Through analyzing over 3,500 samples from 12 cancer types -such as breast, kidney and bladder, researchers found at least 10% of tumors (possibly as high as 30 to 50 % ) would be identified differently if oncologists determined their diagnoses by a tumor's molecular makeup.
Additionally, tumor samples on a molecular level appeared to look more like unrelated cancers. For an instance, a significant number of squamous head-and-neck cancers looked more like some squamous-cell cancers found in the lung.
They also found that in many of the cancer types, such as an aggressive form of brain tumor known as glioblastoma and a type of leukemia, the tumor samples matched up well with the tissue classifications, suggesting that a tumor's location is still important for certain types of cancers.
Usage for New cancer classification system
Many cancers, which are yet sequenced, are added into the genomic "map", including breast, kidney, bladder, brain, colon, endometrial and lung. It enable doctors to figure out whether an existing therapy for one cancer will work for a subtype of a seemingly different cancer.
The discovery that some tumors shared molecular similarities with tumors from other parts of the body was particularly striking in bladder cancer. It may help explain why some bladder cancer patients respond much differently to treatment than others.
In a new study appearing in the Aug. 7 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine, mutated versions of a gene called PALB2 can dramatically increase a woman's risk of breast cancer. Women carrying the PALB2 mutation have a one-in-three probability of developing breast cancer by the age of 70.
The investigators found that the risk is even higher -reaching up to about six in 10- for women with a family history of breast cancer. Those odds place PALB2 just behind the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes as a top genetic risk factor for breast cancer.
PALB tied to major breast cancer risk
For breast cancer, both BRCA genes have became the predominant biomarkers to evaluate a woman's risk. According to the U.S. National Cancer Institute, Women who carry a mutated form of either of the BRCA genes have a 45% to 65% risk of breast cancer by age 70.
This new study provides the first solid evidence regarding the breast cancer risk associated with PALB2. Knowing this knowledge, women with a PALB2 mutation can talk with their doctor about whether they should undergo a surgery to reduce their breast cancer risk.
BRCA1, BRCA2 and PALB2 all play a significant role in the repair of damaged DNA. From the perspective of mechanism, PALB2 interacts with BRCA2, and acts as a kind of a bridge between BRCA1 and BRCA2. Mutation of any of the genes impairs the body's ability to fix broken DNA, which can lead to cancer.
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