Redefining cancer of unknown primary: Is precision medicine really shifting the paradigm?

Timothée Olivier, Eugenio Fernandez, Intidhar Labidi-Galy, Pierre-Yves Dietrich, Veronica Rodriguez-Bravo, Giulia Baciarello, Karim Fizazi, Anna Patrikidou
Cancer Treatment Reviews 2021, 97: 102204
The concept of Cancer of Unknown Primary (CUP) has evolved with the advent of medical oncology. CUP can be difficult to diagnose and represents 2 to 5% of new cancers, therefore not exceptionally rare. Within CUPs can be identified a subset of favourable prognosis tumours, however the vast majority of CUP patients belongs to a poor prognosis group. CUP features significant oncological challenges, such as unravelling biological and transversal issues, and most importantly, improving patient's outcomes. In that regard, CUP patients' outcomes regrettably showed minimal improvement for decades and CUP remains a cancer group of very poor prognosis. The biology of CUP has two main hypotheses. One is that CUP is a subgroup of a given primary cancer, where the primary is present but cannot be seen due to its small size. The other, the "true" CUP hypothesis, states that CUP share features that make them a specific entity, whatever their tissue of origin. A true biological signature has not yet been described, but chromosomal instability is a hallmark of poor prognosis CUP group. Precision oncology, despite achieving identifying the putative origin of the CUP, so far failed to globally improve outcomes of patients. Targeting molecular pathways based on molecular analysis in CUP management is under investigation. Immunotherapy has not shown ground-breaking results, to date. Accrual is also a crucial issue in CUP trials. Herein we review CUP history, biological features and remaining questions in CUP biology, the two main approaches of molecular oncology in CUP management, in order to draw perspectives in the enormous challenge of improving CUP patient outcomes.

Full Text Links

Find Full Text Links for this Article


You are not logged in. Sign Up or Log In to join the discussion.

Related Papers

Remove bar
Read by QxMD icon Read

Save your favorite articles in one place with a free QxMD account.


Search Tips

Use Boolean operators: AND/OR

diabetic AND foot
diabetes OR diabetic

Exclude a word using the 'minus' sign

Virchow -triad

Use Parentheses

water AND (cup OR glass)

Add an asterisk (*) at end of a word to include word stems

Neuro* will search for Neurology, Neuroscientist, Neurological, and so on

Use quotes to search for an exact phrase

"primary prevention of cancer"
(heart or cardiac or cardio*) AND arrest -"American Heart Association"

We want to hear from doctors like you!

Take a second to answer a survey question.