Researchers with The Cancer Genome Atlas (TCGA) Research Network have completed the largest, most diverse tumor genetic analysis ever conducted, revealing a new approach to classifying cancers. The work, led by researchers at the UNC Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and other TCGA sites, not only revamps traditional ideas of how cancers are diagnosed and treated, but could also have a profound impact on the future landscape of drug development.
"We found that one in 10 cancers analyzed in this study would be classified differently using this new approach," said Chuck Perou, PhD, professor of genetics and pathology, UNC Lineberger member and senior author of the paper, which appears online Aug. 7 in Cell. "That means that 10 percent of the patients might be better off getting a different therapy that's huge."
Since 2006, much of the research has identified cancer as not a single disease, but many types and subtypes and has defined these disease types based on the tissue breast, lung, colon, etc. in which it originated. In this scenario, treatments were tailored to which tissue was affected, but questions have always existed because some treatments work, and fail for others, even when a single tissue type is tested.
In their work, TCGA researchers analyzed more than 3,500 tumors across 12 different tissue types to see how they compared to one another -- the largest data set of tumor genomics ever assembled, explained Katherine Hoadley, PhD, research assistant professor in genetics and lead author. They found that cancers are more likely to be genetically similar based on the type of cell in which the cancer originated, compared to the type of tissue in which it originated.
"In some cases, the cells in the tissue from which the tumor originates are the same," said Hoadley. "But in other cases, the tissue in which the cancer originates is made up of mult
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University of North Carolina Health Care