Improving the TNM classification: Findings from a 10-year continuous literature review

Colleen Webber, Mary Gospodarowicz, Leslie H. Sobin, Christian Wittekind, Frederick L. Greene, Malcolm D. Mason, Carolyn Compton, James Brierley, Patti A. Groome

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

106 Scopus citations


The Union for International Cancer Control's (UICC) TNM classification is a globally accepted system to describe the anatomic extent of malignant tumors. Since its development seventy years ago, the TNM classification has undergone significant revisions to reflect the current understanding of extent of disease and its role in prognosis. To ensure that revisions are evidence-based, the UICC implemented a process for continuous improvement of the TNM classification that included a formalized system for submitting proposals for revisions directly to the UICC and an annual review of the scientific literature on staging that assessed, criticized or made suggestions for changes. The process involves review of the proposals and literature by a group of international, multidisciplinary Expert Panels. The process has been in place for 10 years and informed the development of the 7th edition of the TNM classification published in 2009. The purpose of this article is to provide a description of the annual literature review process, including the search strategy, article selection process and the roles and requirements of the Expert Panels in the review of the literature. Since 2002, 147 Expert Panel members in 11 cancer sites have reviewed over 770 articles. The results of the annual literature reviews, Expert Panel feedback and documentation and dissemination of results are described. What's new? The Union for International Cancer Control's TNM classification undergoes periodic revisions to incorporate current knowledge of anatomic extent of disease and its relationship with patient management and prognosis. This article describes the results of an annual literature review process that was implemented in 2002 to inform revisions to the classification. Since that time, more than 770 articles have been reviewed, with the number of articles reviewed increasing over time, reflecting growing research interest in cancer staging and new developments in cancer diagnosis. The report suggests that the literature review process has enhanced recent changes to the TNM classification.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)371-378
Number of pages8
JournalInternational Journal of Cancer
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jul 15 2014


  • TNM classification
  • evidence-based practice
  • international cooperation
  • neoplasm staging
  • prognosis

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology
  • Cancer Research


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