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National Brain Tumor Society Statement on Revised World Health Organization Classification of Tumors of the Central Nervous System

2016-05-10

National Brain Tumor Society (NBTS), the largest nonprofit organization in the U.S. dedicated to the brain tumor community, today released the following statement from David F. Arons, Chief Executive Officer, on the publishing of the 2016 updated World Health Organization (WHO) Classification of Tumours of the Central Nervous System, 4th Edition (Blue Book):

“National Brain Tumor Society is excited and encouraged that the WHO’s International Agency for Research on Cancer, together with international leaders in neuropathology, has moved the greater neuro-oncology field toward a more precise and accurate system of brain tumor classification.

Based on information from expert neuropathologists and neuro-oncologists, the result of the updated WHO classifications, which integrate molecular information with histology, is that doctors will be better able to more accurately diagnose, make prognoses, plan treatment, and predict therapeutic response for patients. A more precise diagnosis and treatment plan is a win for patients.

Since the advent of new technology and capabilities for genomic sequencing, and in particular the seminal Cancer Genome Atlas project funded by the National Institutes of Health, recent molecular studies on brain tumors have begun to reveal the vast diversity of genetic and epigenetic alterations that exist between brain tumors. This biological heterogeneity often means tumors that may, at first blush, appear to be the same, may actually require a different approach to treatment – as well as the converse (i.e. tumors that may look different under the microscope may have common molecular alterations). Further studies have also shown that molecular signatures in tumor cells can define different groups of brain tumor types with distinctive characteristics, and that analyzing a tumor for mutations or deletions in certain genes or regions of chromosomes, can provide a deeper level of understanding of each tumor’s make-up.

Thus, it was critical that molecular data be integrated into traditional histopathology approaches to reclassify brain tumor types more effectively.

New integrated classifications will also improve future research and the development of new treatments by ensuring that patients participating in clinical trials are comparable within and across trials, and patients in clinical trials are correctly stratified based on their molecular signatures with targeted therapies most likely to benefit them. Additionally, the updated classifications will help provide more accurate analysis and understanding of experimental studies in the lab, as well as better interpretation of population-based disease trends that may help identify causes and risk factors. In short, this move away from traditional histopathology alone, to integrated classification with molecular characteristics, moves the brain tumor field further into the era of medicines that are highly targeted for a particular brain tumor patient.

We thank the WHO, IACRC, and the all the researchers in the CNS section for their work and dedication to this effort.”

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About National Brain Tumor Society

National Brain Tumor Society (NBTS) is the largest nonprofit organization in the U.S. dedicated to the brain tumor community. We are fiercely committed to finding better treatments and driving rapid progress toward a cure for brain tumors. We drive a multi-faceted and thoughtful approach to aggressively influence and fund strategic research, as well as advocate for public policy changes, in order to achieve the greatest impact, results, and progress for brain tumor patients. Money raised by the generous donations of our supporters has directly funded groundbreaking discoveries, programs, clinical trials and policy initiatives. To learn more visit www.braintumor.org

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