Melissa Healy, Los Angeles Times
October 12, 2017

“Organizing cancers by their location ‘has made sense for generations, but the results of molecular analysis are now calling this view into question,” — David Haussler, Joshua M. Stuart and fellow UC Santa Cruz cancer researchers, writing in Nature, October 2013.

Ever since 1761, when the Italian physician Giovanni Battista Morgagni published his detailed findings from 700 autopsies, cancers have been inextricably linked with the organs they inhabit.

Over the next 250 years, physicians would learn that even after a tumor had been fully excised from one organ, some remnant of the malignancy could spread to other organs through fluids like blood and lymph. With the advent of microscopes in the late 19th century, they would begin to appreciate tumors’ commonalities and differences in cellular detail. And with the decoding of the human genome, they would begin to discern the roles that DNA mutations play in helping cancers begin, grow and spread.

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