Molecular testing is now the norm in metastatic cancers
These days oncologists order molecular testing for most patients with metastatic carcinomas to determine eligibility for targeted therapy, suitability for participation in clinical trials, prognostication, and/or assistance in determining the site of origin if that’s unclear.
A single-pass fine needle aspiration biopsy doesn’t provide enough tissue for molecular testing. It’s therefore important to order initially a multipass fine needle aspiration to avoid the need for a repeat biopsy, which is uncomfortable for the patient and can delay diagnosis and treatment.
Dr. Brondfield advised waiting for molecular testing results to come in before trying to prognosticate in patients with a metastatic cancer for which targetable mutations might be present. Survival rates can vary substantially depending upon those test results. Take, for example, metastatic NSCLC: Just within the past year, clinical trials have been published reporting overall survival rates of 39 months in patients with treatable mutations in epidermal growth factor receptor, 42 months with anaplastic lymphoma kinase mutations, and 51 months in patients whose tumor signature features mutations in c-ros oncogene 1, as compared with 22 months with no targetable mutations in the KEYNOTE-189 trial.
“There’s a lot of heterogeneity around how metastatic tumors behave and respond to therapy. Not all metastatic cancers are the same,” the oncologist emphasized.
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