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New Classification Proposed for Stomach Cancers

Categorizing by pathway, not cell type, may lead to better treatments, researchers say,,

FRIDAY, Oct. 2 (HealthDay News) -- A new way to classify stomach cancers could lead to more effective treatments and improved long-term survival for people with the disease, researchers say.

For a study published online Oct. 1 in PLoS Genetics, the researchers analyzed 301 stomach tumors from people in Australia, Singapore and Great Britain, classifying the cancers according to the signaling pathways the tumors use to grow and spread. Currently, stomach cancers are classified by cell type or structure.

"We identified three oncogenic pathways that were activated in over 70 percent of the gastric tumors we examined," lead author Chia Huey Ooi, a research fellow at the Duke-National University of Singapore Graduate Medical School, said in a Duke news release. "We also found that combinations of these pathways are significantly related to patient survival."

Less than a quarter of stomach cancer patients live longer than five years after surgery. The disease is resistant to chemotherapy, and new biologic-based treatments have not proven very effective.

Using this new system, doctors could classify patients according to the pathway profile of their tumor and design treatments to interrupt the signals used by the pathways.

"These findings may give us the first way to truly offer our gastric cancer patients personalized medicine," the study's senior author, Dr. Patrick Tan, also from the Duke-NUS medical school and the Genome Institute of Singapore, said in the news release.

More information

The American Cancer Society has more about stomach cancer.

-- Robert Preidt

SOURCE: Duke University, news release, Oct. 1, 2009

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