In May 2016, the World Health Organisation (WHO) published new official guidelines for the classification of brain tumours. Last published in 2007, this update now includes genetic and molecular information of tumours combined with their histology (the way tumours are examined under a microscope) into the classification process, which will help refine expert diagnosis and treatment of brain tumours.
In the nine years since publication, new and more sensitive techniques have been developed to allow for a greater accuracy of the histological assessment of tumour type. But, more importantly, a large amount of molecular and genetic data has been generated to help us to understand the biochemistry of tumour cells. Research carried out at our Centres of Excellence has certainly contributed to this data. This highlights the importance of good communication, collaboration and the sharing of data, equipment and human resource that is actively promoted by us and lies at the heart of our mission to build a network of experts in sustainable brain tumour research.
The updated guidelines are a positive step forward for scientific research into and clinical treatment of brain tumours. They were developed by a working group of 35 researchers from 10 countries, who in turn have pulled together new information gleaned about brain tumours from hundreds of researchers working around the world over the last decade. The inclusion of the molecular genetic information reflects the technical advances that have been made in the field of neuro-oncology. Critically, this classification will also help identify more effective treatments for individual patients.
The new WHO guidelines re-classify a number of tumour types. This is based on a deeper biological understanding, location within the brain and the clinical symptoms of the tumours. Updates include an expanded classification for glioblastomas based on a certain genetic mutations and retiring the use of “oligoastrocytoma,” or mixed glioma, now classified more accurately as astrocytoma or oligodendroglioma.
Additional changes are found in the summary of the 2016 World Health Organization Classification of Tumours of the Central Nervous System.