Two patients with the exact same tumor have different outcomes. Why?
Five hundred years ago, a 3-centimeter lump in one patient that looked and felt identical to that of another patient was considered the same tumor. Yet one patient did well and the other died.
With progress in science, doctors determined that tumors that look alike to the naked eye can look different under the microscope. Tumors were lumped together if they looked alike, felt the same, and had the same microscopic appearance. Yet still some patients did well while others died.
With progress in science, doctors determined that tumors that look alike under the microscope can have different surface proteins (antigens). Tumors were lumped together if they looked alike under the microscopic appearance and shared a specific array of surface antigens. Yet still some patients did well while others died.
This 3-minute video Gene Breakthroughs Spark a Revolution in Cancer Treatment explains how genetic markers are helping researchers separate seemingly identical tumors into those that might respond to a specific treatment and those expected not to respond.
It's a new way of thinking about cancer. What really matters? Where a cancer began? Or that it has genetic markers that indicate susceptibility to specific treatments?
If you remember only one thing from this post, may it be this: Well-funded and well-executed research is the only way to uncover truths about treating cancer.