How to interpret genomic testing results? ESMO recommendations to make reports easy to read


The aim is to harmonise results between different laboratories and facilitate clinical decision-making for physicians

Genomic tumour profiling plays a pivotal role in cancer care today; however, analysis and interpretation of test results is often challenging for physicians, thus undermining their clinical use. To make the most out of large amounts of data generated in oncology, the ESMO Precision Medicine Working Group (PMWG) has developed a set of recommendations to facilitate comprehension of genomics reports beyond technicalities, while guaranteeing their quality (Article in press).

Published in Annals of Oncology, the recommendations provide guidance on how to structure genomics reports and which information to include, in order to improve the readability of test findings.
“We are now facing a transition of using genomics tests, from research setting to routine clinical practice, and we believe it is important to reach a wide consensus on how their findings should be reported back to clinicians,” explains Dr Joaquin Mateo, Vall d’Hebron Institute of Oncology, Barcelona, Spain, member of the ESMO PMWG. “We hope that these recommendations are useful for laboratories that are getting started in providing genomics results for patients, but they are also important for those that are already doing it and for physicians to make the best decisions for their patients based on genomics data.”

According to the joint lead author of the paper Dr Paul Roepman, Hartwig Medical Foundation, Netherlands Cancer Institute, Amsterdam, The Netherlands, the way results from genomic testing are reported is often too technical as “it only provides the results, while we believe it is important to provide the meaning behind data, so to know what might be done with certain findings.”

Regarding the future clinical implications of the new ESMO recommendations, Roepman believes they may help speed up the adoption of genomic testing. While a recent ESMO study identified costs of advanced technologies and reimbursement policies as major barriers to precision oncology, confidence in interpreting the results of multimarker panel tests have also been reported as influencing their use in clinical practice (JCO Precis Oncol. 2020 Jun 11:4:PO.19.00338). “If it becomes easier for medical oncologists to understand reports, then they will also see the added value of performing genomic testing,” he concludes. “In addition, if we provide a harmonised way of reporting results, it will be easier to compare the findings between different labs and institutes.”

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