College of American Pathologists
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  Molecular Testing for Targeted
  Cancer Therapy


Posted October 5, 2007


The College of American Pathologists supports the appropriate use of molecular testing by pathologists for the targeted treatment of cancer.

Information Highlights

  • Pathologists are doctors who identify and diagnose cancers and other diseases.
  • New scientific advances have provided an improved understanding of cancers at the molecular level, and pathologists are applying these advances through molecular tests that may help you and your primary care doctor in treating and managing your disease.
  • Specifically, molecular testing allows pathologists to identify if your cancer may respond to and be stopped by specific types of drugs.
  • Significant advances have also been made in the understanding of how normal genetic variations in people affect the body’s processing of various drugs, including agents used to treat cancer.
  • Some individuals process drugs rapidly, some much more slowly. Understanding a patient’s genetic program for processing drugs helps pathologists advise other doctors whether some drugs may not be optimal for a patient or to suggest dosage changes to optimize results and minimize side effects.
  • Such tests are now available and can be run by pathologists in accredited laboratories for cancers of the blood, lung cancer, breast cancer, and some rare types of cancers.
  • New research by pathologists suggests that additional tests can be made for other cancers, such as prostate cancer.
  • These tests can be run by pathologists in their accredited laboratories by using blood samples or portions of the cancer tissue.
  • The results of the tests, when reviewed by your pathologist and primary care doctors, will define if a particular drug may be effective in treating your cancer. In this way you are treated with drugs that are most likely to stop your cancer, while drugs that are predicted to have side effects and/or that are unlikely to stop your cancer can be avoided.
  • These test results will help you to decide what is the best cancer treatment for you.
  • The College of American Pathologists believes that testing done in accredited laboratories by pathologists are more likely to be done properly and the results are most likely to be accurate.
  • The College of American Pathologists is one of the national organizations that monitors test performance and accredits laboratories as a way to insure that testing is done accurately.