New Tool to Identify Tumor Heterogeneity Could Help Pave Way for Personalized Cancer Therapies and Help Pathologists Add Value for Oncologists

Ohio State University study shows correlation between genetic variability among cancer cells within tumors and the survival of patients with head-and-neck cancers

Anatomic pathologists and clinical laboratories  may gain a tool to identify tumor heterogeneity. This would enable them to ultimately guide personalized cancer therapies if a new method for measuring genetic variability within a tumor and predicting outcomes is confirmed in future studies.

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The new tool was dubbed “MATH” by researchers at The Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center–Arthur G. James Cancer Hospital and Richard J. Solove Research Institute  (OSUCCC–James). MATH is the scoring method they developed and stands for  mutant-allele tumor heterogeneity. MATH was used to measure the genetic variability among cancer cells within tumors from 305 patients with head and neck squamous cell carcinoma  (HNSCC), treated at multiple institutions, from The Cancer Genome Atlas.

In announcing the study results, OSUCCC-James stated  that cancers that showed high genetic variability— called “intra-tumor heterogeneity”—correlated with lower patient survival.

James Rocco, MD, PhD, Professor in the Department of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center, and his colleagues, used MATH values “to document a relation between intra-tumor heterogeneity and overall survival in any type of cancer.” (more…)