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Clinical insights

Clinical studies can teach us a great deal about the processes and mechanisms underlying cancer, and they also remind us of aspects of cancer that we still do not understand. For example, why patients with metastatic special neuroblastoma undergo spontaneous tumour regression; why some rare types of cancer are metaplastic; and why some patients are exceptional responders to chemotherapy. In recognition of these types of informative findings from the clinic that are often overlooked by laboratory-based cancer researchers, we have commissioned a series of Clinical insights Comment articles. Thinking more broadly about these more unusual aspects of cancer might help us overcome some of the current stumbling blocks in cancer research.


Most of our current knowledge of melanoma is derived from the study of patients from populations of European descent, for whom public health, sun protection initiatives and screening measures have appreciably decreased disease mortality. Notably, some melanoma subtypes that most commonly develop in other populations are not associated with exposure to ultraviolet (UV) light, suggesting a different disease aetiology. Further study of these subtypes is necessary to understand their risk factors and genomic architecture, and to tailor therapies and public health campaigns to benefit patients of all ethnic groups.

Comment | | Nature Reviews Cancer

NUT midline carcinoma, a squamous cell carcinoma, is one of the most aggressive human cancers, and there is a desperate need for effective therapies for patients with this disease.

Comment | | Nature Reviews Cancer

Metaplastic breast carcinoma (MBC) accounts for 0.2–5% of invasive breast cancers. The majority of MBCs have a triple-negative phenotype, are highly heterogeneous and respond poorly to chemotherapy. Understanding their divergent differentiation and identifying the cell of origin might provide some much-needed insight into this disease.

Comment | | Nature Reviews Cancer