Doctors order UW-OncoPlex just as they would any other lab test. Because UW-OncoPlex sequences a tumor’s DNA—not that of the patient’s normal cells—a tissue sample is required. The only exception is for leukemia patients; in this case, DNA is taken from blood or bone marrow samples.
Many patients will already have had surgery and/or biopsies taken prior to the UW-OncoPlex assay. In that case, nothing further may be required. It’s standard practice for labs to preserve your tissue samples; if enough is still available, we can use it to extract your tumor’s DNA. However, if there’s no tissue on file, then you and your doctor will need to discuss the risks and benefits of having a biopsy performed specifically for UW-OncoPlex.
Currently, the turnaround time for your doctor to receive the UW-OncoPlex results is approximately two months.
The Odds of Having a Known Mutation
There is great variability in the odds of identifying a driver mutation in every case. For example, there is one melanoma gene mutation that appears in 50 percent of patients tested. But many cancers are quite rare; some of the more common lung cancer mutations appear in only five percent or less of patients.
If your UW-OncoPlex result is positive, your doctor is likely to recommend the associated treatment that’s documented to be most effective for patients whose disease has the same genetic characteristics as yours. Once you and your SCCA oncologist have discussed the protocol, and the risks and benefits, you can generally get started right away.
UW-OncoPlex Guides the Choice of Clinical Trials
The process is only slightly more complicated when investigational drugs are indicated. If a clinical trial is still open and the travel requirements are not too burdensome, then your doctor will help you to enroll. However, when that’s not an option, it’s often possible to obtain the required doses from the manufacturer on the grounds of compassionate use.
The good news is that actionable drugs indicated by UW-OncoPlex have a higher-than-average success rate. That’s because they target a receptive patient population. In addition, immunotherapy drugs that work on molecular pathways have shown a positive track record in terms of persistence. Historically, the prognosis has been good for patients who have responded to immunotherapy agents.