Doctors are working to learn more about CUP, ways to prevent cancer, how to best treat it, and how to provide the best care to people diagnosed with this disease. The following areas of research may include new options for patients through clinical trials . Always talk with your doctor about the diagnostic and treatment options best for you.
Using genetics to diagnose the primary site. Different tissues within the body make different proteins, depending on the genes that are active (this is called gene expression). For example, some of the genes expressed by normal lung cells are different from those expressed by normal colon cells. When cancers develop in these organs, they usually have the same organ-specific pattern of gene expression. It is now possible to analyze a tumor sample (from a biopsy) to find the genes being expressed, which can help find the primary site.
As described in Diagnosis , immunohistochemical (IHC) tests and other molecular tests of the tumor sample are currently being investigated for patients with CUP. Although information is incomplete, it appears that these tests will improve diagnosis and specific treatment for some people with CUP. Several tests are currently available. Although they are not yet considered part of standard diagnosis of CUP, accumulating evidence from clinical trials supports their accuracy and value.
For patients who are not in any identified CUP subgroup, the following research is being done to find more effective treatments:
New combinations of chemotherapy drugs. Many clinical trials are looking at using treatment programs that are effective for other types of cancer. Some of these studies are testing new drugs, such as drugs not yet approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and others are looking at new combinations or schedules of approved drugs.
Targeted therapy. Targeted therapy is a treatment that targets the cancer's specific genes, proteins, or the tissue environment that contributes to cancer growth and survival. Several targeted therapies are already approved by the FDA for specific cancers, either used alone or with chemotherapy.
Recent studies show that not all tumors have the same targets. To find the most effective treatment, your doctor may run tests to identify the genes, proteins, and other factors in your tumor. Current research is underway to find these factors in CUP. As a result, doctors can better match each patient with the most effective treatment whenever possible. In addition, many research studies are taking place now to find out more about specific molecular targets and new treatments directed at them. Learn more about targeted treatments .
New types of treatment. Patients with cancers that no longer respond to the standard treatment may want to consider clinical trials that test new types of treatment, called phase I clinical trials . The goals of these studies are to find the side effects and best doses for these new drugs, as well as to learn if they are effective against cancer.
Supportive care. Clinical trials are underway to find better ways of reducing symptoms and side effects of current cancer treatments in order to improve patients' comfort and quality of life.
Learn more about common statistical terms used in cancer research .
To find clinical trials specific to your diagnosis, talk with your doctor or search online clinical trial databases now .