Genomic testing of cancer tissues obtained from a biopsy can give clinicians and patients a window into the genetic changes that have occurred in the tumor and, possibly, highlight potential treatments, writes Elaine Schattner at Forbes. However, she notes, such analysis isn't routine and can be difficult to come by.
"Genomic testing of cancer cells seems like it should be available to all patients," Lori Marx-Rubiner, who has metastatic breast cancer and leads the nonprofit Metavivor, which promotes research into metastatic disease, tells Schattner. She adds that she struggled to obtain a biopsy sample for analysis and to get her insurance company to cover the cost.
Testing of cancer cells has been showing, Schattner adds, that there are many molecular subtypes of disease, and despite what organ a tumor cropped up in, if it has, for instance, an ALK mutation, it may be vulnerable to drugs that target that change.
"[Genetic data] may lead us to a trial drug that works, even one that's not usually given for breast cancer," adds Marx-Rubiner, who notes that repeat testing of her tumor may be necessary. "But if they find a mutation and there's a drug that works against it, that would be worth it."