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Biopsy Troubles

A personalized medicine study has run into an unexpected issue: tumor biopsies that aren't good enough to undergo genetic analysis, Stat News reports.

Between 10 percent and 20 percent of the needle biopsies collected for the National Cancer Institute MATCH trial, which began in August, are of poor quality and contain few tumor cells, it adds.

Trial investigators are supposed to collect four tissue cores from each patient to be sent to the MD Anderson Cancer Center for analysis. But when technicians there opened shipments, they often found one or two cores. In addition, many of those samples themselves weren't that good.

According to Stat News, poor-quality biopsies were more likely to come from smaller and more rural medical clinics, though major academic research hospitals also submitted poor biopsies.

As these samples didn't contain enough of the tumor to analyze, they couldn't be matched to personalized treatments, leaving the study participants, many of whom came to the trial as a last resort, in the cold, it adds.

Massachusetts General Hospital's Keith Flaherty, who is heading up the trial, tells Stat News that he hopes that better training of interventional radiologists — who generally try to collect as little tissue as they can that's still useful — and their medical oncologists colleagues will improve biopsies.