The Study: The Cancer Genome Atlas has opened doors to exploring common molecular features among different types of cancer. This interesting study performed unsupervised molecular classifications of over 10K tumors to identify 10 broad molecular classes regardless of tissue or location. Almost all of these classes included a broad range of traditional tumor sites that shared common molecular features. Simply put, they were pretty tissue agnostic. The one exception was basal-like (mostly triple-negative) breast cancer, which formed a distinct molecular class entirely of its own. In other words, basal-like breast cancer is molecularly unlike all other human cancers. What’s more, one entire class was primarily characterized by changes in immune checkpoint genes, and a larger than expected proportion of tumors had neuroendocrine features.
Bottom Line: Clustering types of cancer according to molecular class can help us expand treatment options across disease sites.