We’re naming cancers all wrong, oncology leader says

Naming cancers solely by the organs they originate in is getting a bit old, according to Fabrice André, a medical oncologist at Gustave Roussy in France and the president-elect of the European Society of Medical Oncology. Instead, André hopes to push for a new naming system that emphasizes the molecular characteristics of a cancer, regardless of its tissue of origin.

That’s because, in the last several decades, science has uncovered the ways genetic alterations can drive the growth and development of cancers — and how those alterations can be targeted with medicines to melt tumors away. In many cases, these mutations aren’t limited to cancers of a single organ, nor do all cancers from an organ share the same mutations. Two patients may both have breast cancer, but if one is a triple-negative cancer and another is packed with HER2 proteins, the treatment will look very different, André said. That can cause confusion for patients.

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