Hunting for cancer of unknown primary

From ABC Online, 13 January 2019:

Ken Lee woke up one morning and couldn’t move his legs.

The 72-year-old had been experiencing numbness for a few weeks, but his doctor hadn’t been able to find anything amiss. When he lost the use of his legs, his family took him straight to hospital where scans revealed a tumour on his spine.

It was clearly a secondary or advanced cancer; one that had spread to his spine from another part of the body. But the doctors couldn’t work out what kind of cancer it was. “When they did the markers they said, ‘The cancer’s in your bones’. So then they went backwards to try and work out where it’s coming from,” his daughter Jody said.

Despite countless tests, scans, treatment attempts and investigations, Ken died three months later, without doctors ever discovering where the cancer originated or how to treat it.

In an era where researchers can sequence the human genome, monitor the changing patterns of protein expression inside a cell or use imaging technology to peer into the tiniest of molecules, it’s hard to imagine how a tumour could still manage to hide. Read more.

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