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Cancer of Unknown Primary (CUP) is the sixth most common cause of cancer death in Australians, with this condition describing cancer that has an 'unknown site of origin' where cancer cells have spread around the body.
Researchers at Melbourne's Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre – in collaboration with NICTA, Circadian and Healthscope – have developed a test that can identify the primary source of cancer in patients with CUP.
Around 2,800 Australians are diagnosed with CUP each year, with the test hoping to improve treatment outcomes.
The primary source of cancer was identified in more than 90 per cent of cases in trials, with head of the Cancer Genomics Program at Peter Mac Professor David Bowtell describing the test today (November 13) at the Clinical Oncological Society of Australia's (COSA's) Annual Scientific Meeting.
"In some cases you can do extensive clinical and pathological tests but still not confirm the site of origin, often causing distress to the patient. Older or very sick patients, especially, may not be up to such extensive testing," Professor Bowtell said.
"Accurately identifying the primary tumour will allow clinicians to choose the most effective treatment strategy, hopefully leading to better outcomes and quality of life for these patients."
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