Alan Stolier, MD/

Welcome to the Pan-Cancer Atlas: The Cell of Origin Is Not the Only Determinant of Tumor Behavior

An American-led study of 33 of the most prevalent cancer types from over 11,000 tumors, found that the cancers could be reclassified into 28 clusters that shared similar molecules. One author noted, “it’s time to rewrite the textbooks on cancer.”


Currently, we classify cancers and treatment according to the tissue of origin. In the Pan-Cancer Atlas, researchers analyzed 23 of the most common tumor types and 10 rare ones to discern similarities and differences on a genetic and molecular level. The flagship paper, by Peter Laird et al, was published in the journal Cell.(Cell-Laird et al) There are 27 companion papers which can be seen on the following website. http://www.cell.com/pb-assets/consortium/pancanceratlas/pancan/index.html

The Pan-Cancer Atlas gives us an overview of the oncogenic processes contributing to human cancer. It reveals how germline genetic variants and somatic mutations affect cancer progression. It also explores the influence of mutation on cell signaling and immune cell composition. This provides insights into the development of new treatments and immunotherapy.

The Atlas reclassifies human tumors based on 3 main features:

1. Molecular similarity: Indicated that the cell of origin influences but does not fully determine tumor classification. Companion works reveal new insights into subgrouping of cancers and reveal stem-cell-like features associated with oncogenic dedifferentiation.

2. Germline and somatic mutations: It explores how mutations collaborate in cancer progression and explore the influence of mutation on cell signaling and immune cell composition. This could lead to the development of new treatments and immunotherapies.

3. Tumor signaling pathways: In analyzing tumor signaling pathways, the Pan-Cancer Atlas revealed patterns of vulnerabilities that will aid in the development of personalized treatments and new combination therapies.

As a new, singular point of reference, the Pan-Cancer Atlas will become an essential resource for the development of new treatments in the pursuit of precision medicine.

For those interested, there is a Pan-Cancer Webinar on May 22, 2018,/ at 1 PM ET. The URL for registering is https://www.workcast.com/register?cpak=7611522012799566&referrer=PanCanPortal.

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