At a glance

Also known as

Solid Tumour Panel, Cancer Hotspot Panel, Somatic Mutation Testing

Why get tested?
To determine which genetic mutations are present in the abnormal cells forming a tumour.  For some tumour types, a microscopic assessment of the tumour cells does not provide all the necessary information that your doctor needs.  Information obtained from genetic testing can be used to guide treatment decisions and determine outcome.  Results can also support a more precise diagnosis of a tumour and predict how the tumour might progress in the future.  Occasionally, results from testing tumour cells can also guide consideration of inherited risk factors for cancer in a patient’s family.
 
When to get tested?
Depending on the tumour type, genetic testing may be part of the initial assessment of a tumour.  Some cancers have treatment options that are guided by which mutations are present in the tumour cells.  Your doctor may request somatic tumour testing to help decide which therapy is most suitable for you.  If a cancer spreads or changes over time it may be necessary to re-evaluate new tumour material with another test.
 
Sample required?
A sample of your tumour obtained during a biopsy or fine needle aspirate is required for laboratory analysis.

What is being tested?

Somatic tumour testing can include investigation of many different mutations in different genes depending on the setting.  DNA is extracted from the tumour cells and analysed for the presence of mutations.  Some testing is targeted to a specific group of cancers.  This includes testing a panel of candidate genes most relevant to your type of tumour.  These methods allow a targeted assessment of genetic mutations associated with cancer and may predict response to different treatment options.
 
How is the sample collected for testing?

A sample of tumour is obtained by doing a surgical biopsy or a fine needle aspiration. 

The Test

How is it used?

The results of genetic testing allows your doctor to better understand your tumour type and prognosis.  For some tumours this test is used to select which patients will benefit from different therapy choices.  The result can also help doctors predict how a cancer will progress over time which can inform your treatment decisions.  Repeat testing may assess the effectiveness of treatment and potentially direct a change in ongoing therapy .

When is it requested?

Somatic tumour testing is part of the initial assessment of many different tumour types where a microscopic assessment is not sufficient to guide treatment choices.  If the cancer spreads or changes over time, a repeat test may help to re-assess the effectiveness of therapy.
 

What does the test result mean?

The results of somatic tumour testing helps your doctor better understand what type of tumour you have.  Some therapy options are known only to work for patients whose tumours have specific patterns of mutations. Therefore, knowledge about the genetic mutations present in a tumour can help your doctor recommend the best treatment for your tumour and avoid medications that will be unlikely to provide benefit.

Is there anything else I should know?

Most genetic mutations that cause cancer, occur as new mutations in previously healthy cells.  In such cases, the patient was not born with that mutation – only the cells in the tumour have the mutation.  However, sometimes tumour testing finds mutations which potentially were inherited from a parent. In these cases the mutation is present in all of the cells of the body and create a risk of developing a specific type of tumour e.g. a risk of breast cancer.  If inherited, these mutations may have also been inherited by other family members.  Therefore, in some cases the information obtained from tumour testing will direct your doctor to do a blood test which looks for the mutation in your healthy cells not affected by cancer to see if you carry an inherited mutation.  When these are discovered, the information can be used to assess other family members to see if they are also at risk of having that specific kind of cancer.
 

Last Review Date: July 17, 2020


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