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The Implementation Hurdle

While sequencing technology is getting better and faster, it still isn't quite ready to be put to frequent use in the oncology ward, write the Wellcome Trust Center for Human Genetics' Danny Ulahannan and colleagues in a review in the British Journal of Cancer.

In the research setting, they note, there are still challenges in calling low-frequency variants that appear in cancer genomes as well as issues in identifying structural and copy-number variants.

And to move next-gen sequencing into the clinic — where Ulahannan and his colleagues suspect it will be used as a focused tool — they write that costs still need to drop and that the ease and reliability of running such tests will need to be improved. In addition, to take on cancer genome samples, sequencing will have to better tolerate low-quality DNA and there will need to be more automated analysis software.

"The computational challenges involved in analyzing and storing clinical (next-generation sequencing) data cannot be overstated," notes Michael Berger from Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, who wasn't part of the paper, to Reuters Health. "Better algorithms must be developed to reliably and accurately detect mutations in heterogeneous tumors."