Approach to biomarker testing: perspectives from various specialties

  • M.R. Sung Princess Margaret Cancer Centre, University Health Network
  • P.M. Ellis Juravinski Cancer Centre
  • S. Verma Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre
  • E. Duncan CONVERGE Advertising (CARE STAFF)
  • N.B. Leighl Princess Margaret Cancer Centre, University Health Network
Keywords: Advanced lung cancer, biomarker testing, testing patterns, testing barriers



Despite its importance for patient outcomes, biomarker testing for lung cancer is not uniformly integrated into the Canadian health care system. To better understand current practice patterns for lung cancer biomarker testing, we assessed physician perspectives by specialty and region.


A national survey of Canadian lung cancer specialists was conducted to understand their perspectives on biomarker testing in lung cancer. The 11-item survey assessed the current practice and challenges of testing. The survey was sent to 375 specialists.


The overall response rate for the survey was 36%. Nearly all specialists reported that knowing tumour genotyping results affects patient outcome and influences the treatment decision. Medical oncologists most commonly initiated molecular testing; however, most respondents suggested a shared model involving medical oncologists and pathologists. More than half of all responding specialists had the perception that fewer than 25% of test results are available for first-line treatment decisions. Identified barriers to routine testing for all lung cancer patients included cost, lack of funding, tissue availability, and sample quality.


There was clear agreement that biomarker testing is important in determining appropriate treatment for patients. There is a need for general consensus on who should initiate molecular testing. Clear clinical guidance for pathologists has to be established for molecular testing, including defining the population to be tested, the timing of testing, and the tests to be performed. Testing could be facilitated by including more information on diagnostic sample requisitions, such as clinical suspicion of primary lung cancer, cancer history, and other samples already collected.

How to Cite
Sung, M., Ellis, P., Verma, S., Duncan, E., & Leighl, N. (2016). Approach to biomarker testing: perspectives from various specialties. Current Oncology, 23(3), 178-183.
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