Every now and then the principles on which a taxonomy is organised will change fundamentally, because there us a new way of working. This is happening at the moment with solid cancers, which are currently classified by the parts of the body in which they originate. However, oncologists now believe that a biochemical classification makes more sense, because similar biochemical mechanisms underlie cancers that can appear in various parts of the body, and understanding the mechanism can improve detection, prognosis and treatment. The salient organising principle is no longer location, but mechanism. It’s not that a classification by location is wrong, it’s just not especially useful any more. For more, read Science Magazine’s latest article on “Taxonomy of Tumours”.
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