Background: The American Joint Committee on Cancer (AJCC) published the 1st edition of the Cancer Staging Manual in 1977 and began using T (tumor extent), N (regional lymph node status), and M (the presence or absence of distant metastasis) in an organized staging scheme to express the extent of disease in a number of cancer sites. The goal of this program has been to provide physicians and others with a useful methodology to plan treatment, project prognosis, and measure outcome end results. Until recent years, this system has incorporated only elements of anatomic extent of the tumors determined by clinical and pathologic methods. At the present time an increasing number of nonanatomic cancer prognostic factors are being identified and studied. Some of these factors currently are being used for outcome predictions and treatment decisions.
Methods: To begin the process of identifying and validating these prognostic factors to refine the present TNM system, the AJCC convened a Prognostic Factors Consensus Conference to evaluate the roles of biologic, genetic, molecular, and other nonanatomic factors in staging cancer. Working groups were appointed for carcinomas of the breast, colorectum, prostate, and ovary and experts in each of these areas were invited to participate. Emphasis was placed on evaluating existing data and the correlation of these data with survival.
Results: None of the groups believed that there were sufficient data at the present time to merit incorporation of serum markers into the TNM system for the four tumors under consideration, although this soon might become possible in prostate carcinoma after the evaluation of survival data from multiple institutions. Recommendations were made regarding the emerging sentinel lymph node technique, the need for an increased use of histopathology in the staging of breast and ovarian carcinomas, and the use of additional histologic staining techniques for the detection of "micrometastases" in lymph nodes. A number of additional recommendations were made for changes to the TNM system that did not involve serum markers and other nonanatomic cancer prognostic factors.
Conclusions: These recommendations are presented for the purpose of discussion and evaluation and do not yet represent formal proposals for a change in the AJCC TNM system of staging.
Copyright 1999 American Cancer Society.