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It’s still the case in most medical care systems that cancers are classified mainly by the type of tissue or part of the body in which they arose: lung, brain, breast, colon, pancreas, and so on. But a radical change is underway. Researchers are now identifying the molecular fingerprints of various cancers and using them to divide cancer’s once-broad categories into far more precise types and subtypes. They are also discovering that cancers that develop in totally different parts of the body can sometimes, on a molecular level, have a lot in common. From this new perspective emerges an exciting era in cancer research called precision oncology, in which doctors are choosing treatments based on the DNA signature of an individual patient’s tumor. In one example, using advanced technology to analyze both tumor and blood samples from a large number of children who’d been newly diagnosed with cancer, NIH researchers uncovered genetic signatures that could refine diagnosis, identify inherited cancer susceptibility, or guide treatment for nearly 40 percent of the children.
All of Us
The All of Us Research Program is an ambitious effort to gather data over time from 1 million or more people living in the United States, with the ultimate goal of accelerating research and improving health. Unlike research studies that are focused on a specific disease or population, All of Us will serve as a national research resource to inform thousands of studies, covering a wide variety of health conditions. Researchers will use data from the program to learn more about how individual differences in lifestyle, environment, and biological makeup can influence health and disease. By taking part, people will be able to learn more about their own health and contribute to an effort that will advance the health of generations to come. Participants in All of Us will be invited to use wearable sensors that will provide real-time measurements of their health and environmental exposures, significantly expanding this type of research (see “Wearables” ). All of Us is a service mark of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
This page last reviewed on February 11, 2020