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Cancer of Unknown Primary Treatment

Our Treatment Approach

Your treatment at MD Anderson for a cancer of unknown primary (CUP) is individualized to provide the best options with the least impact on your body. As one of the nation’s largest cancer centers, MD Anderson sees a higher level of CUP patients than many other centers, giving us expertise and experience that can be vital in achieving a successful outcome.

Because each patient – and each cancer of unknown primary – is one of a kind, we tailor your treatment to match your needs. Our team approach ensures that some of the best and brightest minds work together to provide optimal care.

And through it all, we communicate closely with you about your treatment options and progress. In addition, we provide many services that can help you and your family cope with the uncertainty of CUP, including specialized psychologists.

If you have been diagnosed with cancer of unknown primary, we’re here to help. Call 1-877-632-6789 to make an appointment or request an appointment online.

Why Choose MD Anderson?

  • Medical oncology and pathology experts with significant experience in evaluating cancer of unknown primary
  • Most-advanced diagnostic methods to pinpoint origin, including leading-edge CT scans and other imaging methods
  • Comprehensive range of renowned specialists to treat cancer when site of origin is found
  • Advanced CUP treatments including proton therapy, targeted therapies and surgery
  • Clinical trials (research studies) of new therapies

CUP Knowledge Center

Treatment at MD Anderson

Cancers of unknown primary are treated in our: 

Gastrointestinal Center by our expert team

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Cancer of Unknown Primary Treatments

If you are diagnosed with CUP, your doctor will discuss the best options to treat it. Several factors are taken into consideration, including:

  • Extent: the number of areas of the body affected by a CUP tumor and the size of these cancerous areas
  • Site: what organs are affected - lymph nodes, liver, lungs, bones, etc.
  • Your general health

Your treatment for cancer of unknown primary will be customized to your particular needs. One or more of the following therapies may be recommended to treat the cancer or help relieve symptoms.

Surgery may be used if the cancer is in only one area, such as the lymph nodes or one organ. The type of surgery depends on where the CUP is located. Surgery may be combined with chemotherapy or radiation therapy.

Chemotherapy: MD Anderson offers the most up-to-date and advanced chemotherapy options for CUP.

Radiation therapy: New radiation therapy techniques and remarkable skill allow MD Anderson doctors to target tumors more precisely, delivering the maximum amount of radiation with the least damage to healthy cells.

MD Anderson provides the very latest radiation treatments, including:

  • Brachytherapy: Tiny radioactive seeds are placed in the body close to the tumor
  • 3D-conformal radiation therapy: Several radiation beams are given in the exact shape of the tumor
  • Intensity-modulated radiotherapy (IMRT): Treatment is tailored to the specific shape of the tumor

Proton therapy: The Proton Therapy Center at MD Anderson is one of the world’s largest and most advanced centers. It’s the only proton therapy facility in the country located within a comprehensive cancer center. This means this cutting-edge therapy is backed by all the expertise and compassionate care for which MD Anderson is famous.

Proton therapy delivers high radiation doses directly into the tumor, sparing nearby healthy tissue and vital organs. For many patients, this results in better cancer control with fewer side effects.

Targeted therapies: MD Anderson is among just a few cancer centers in the nation that are able to offer targeted therapies for some types of cancer of unknown primary. These innovative new drugs stop the growth of cancer cells by interfering with certain proteins and receptors or blood vessels that supply the tumor with what it needs to grow.

Our Cancer of Unknown Primary Clinical Trials

Since MD Anderson is one of the nation’s leading cancer research centers, we’re able to offer research studies of new treatments for every type of cancer, including cancer of unknown primary.

To find out more about clinical trials at MD Anderson for cancer of unknown primary, visit our Clinical Trials database or speak to your doctor.


© 2014 The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center