Cutting-edge cancer drug hobbled by diagnostic test confusion

Apr 11, 2018

By Heidi Ledford

A landmark cancer drug approved last year seemed to herald a long-anticipated change in the treatment of some tumours: with medicines selected on the basis of molecular markers, rather than the tissue in which the cancer first took root.

But clinicians and researchers are struggling to put that theory into practice. Although the drug itself works well in a variety of tumour types, some of the tests used to identify the molecular markers, it turns out, do not.

On 15 April at the American Association for Cancer Research annual meeting in Chicago, Illinois, researchers and representatives from the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) will discuss how best to tackle the situation. “If you get a false negative result, you’re not going to give that patient the therapy, which is terrible,” says Zsofia Stadler, an oncologist at the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York City. “That’s why there’s such a debate.”

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