The standard in classifying cancer has always been determined by its location of origin. For example, brain cancer if it started in the brain. But now there’s growing weight given to genetics over location.
“As we learn more about cancers and we get smarter about our understanding of them what we’re coming to realize is that it’s less important where the cancer originated. And more important ‘what its genetic’ are,” says Dr. Constantine Mantz, radiation oncologist on Lee Memorial Health System’s medical staff.
An important distinction when treating cancer. By better understanding how it replicates and responds to various treatments.
“We can be far more accurate in our predictions and also much smarter about selecting the therapies that are going to be effective,” says Dr. Mantz.
A case in point: one of the most lethal types of breast cancer, known as triple negative, is genetically closer to a specific ovarian cancer that it is to other breast tumors. It’s an important revelation to women who may now be treated with a less toxic form of chemo which is the standard in ovarian cancer.
“So this may actually afford more treatment options for women that historically have had a very difficult time or a poor prognosis related to that particular type of cancer,” says Dr. Scott Dunbar, oncologist on Lee Memorial Health System’s medical staff.
“In years before, if the cancer were just recognized as a breast cancer all of those cases more or less got the same chemotherapy. And some cases worked out fine others did not work out,” says Dr. Mantz.
The human genome project tracked cancer at the cellular level and also found the same gene mutations linked to 12 different cancers, furthering the field of precision medicine.
“Utilizing this genetic information about how the cancer really comes assembled will help us pick and choose what are the optimal treatments for the future,” says Dr. Dunbar.
So where a cancer comes from may not be nearly as important as how it behaves.