Molecular profiling and the reclassification of cancer: divide and conquer

Abstract

Cancer is one of the leading causes of mortality in the world. Choosing the best treatment is dependent on making the right diagnosis. The diagnostic process has been based on light microscopy and the identification of the organ of tumor origin. Yet we now know that cancer is driven by molecular processes, and that these do not necessarily segregate by organ of origin. Fortunately, revolutionary changes in technology have enabled rapid genomic profiling. It is now apparent that neoplasms classified uniformly (e.g., non-small cell lung cancer) are actually comprised of up to 100 different molecular entities. For instance, tumors bearing ALK alterations make up about 4% of non-small cell lung cancers, and tumors bearing epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) mutations, approximately 5% to 10%. Importantly, matching patients to therapies targeted against their driver molecular aberrations has resulted in remarkable response rates. There is now a wealth of evidence supporting a divide-and-conquer strategy. Herein, we provide a concise primer on the current state-of-the-art of molecular profiling in the cancer clinic.

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Pages 127-134
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