Testing personalized medicine: patient and physician expectations of next-generation genomic sequencing in late-stage cancer care
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Developments in genomics, including next-generation sequencing technologies, are expected to enable a more personalized approach to clinical care, with improved risk stratification and treatment selection. In oncology, personalized medicine is particularly advanced and increasingly used to identify oncogenic variants in tumor tissue that predict responsiveness to specific drugs. Yet, the translational research needed to validate these technologies will be conducted in patients with late-stage cancer and is expected to produce results of variable clinical significance and incidentally identify genetic risks. To explore the experiential context in which much of personalized cancer care will be developed and evaluated, we conducted a qualitative interview study alongside a pilot feasibility study of targeted DNA sequencing of metastatic tumor biopsies in adult patients with advanced solid malignancies. We recruited 29/73 patients and 14/17 physicians; transcripts from semi-structured interviews were analyzed for thematic patterns using an interpretive descriptive approach. Patient hopes of benefit from research participation were enhanced by the promise of novel and targeted treatment but challenged by non-findings or by limited access to relevant trials. Family obligations informed a willingness to receive genetic information, which was perceived as burdensome given disease stage or as inconsequential given faced challenges. Physicians were optimistic about long-term potential but conservative about immediate benefits and mindful of elevated patient expectations; consent and counseling processes were expected to mitigate challenges from incidental findings. These findings suggest the need for information and decision tools to support physicians in communicating realistic prospects of benefit, and for cautious approaches to the generation of incidental genetic information.
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