Physicians and patients participated in discussions regarding molecular testing in cancer treatment to inform which topics are most relevant to these groups. Molecular testing to guide treatment and choice of clinical trial is now customary for several types of cancer. Nonetheless, no guidelines have been established for the kind of information clinicians should discuss during conversations with patients about the test and its results.1

This study identified physician and patient preferences about information, who should communicate this information, and what guidelines should guide these discussions.

In the study, clinicians and patients participated in conversations about molecular testing. Participants were asked to choose 8 topics of the highest relevance from a list of 18 topics. Researchers used the McNemar test to assess top preferences.

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Patients identified what information they wanted to receive and who should deliver the information. Clinicians identified the best supplement to communication.

In total, 66 patients identified 12 preferred topics: the benefits of testing (88%), how testing determines treatment (88%), implications for family (71%), whether a test indicates the seriousness of disease (68%), purpose of the test (64%), incidental findings (56%), explanation of cancer genetics (53%), how the test is done (46%), limitations (44%), explanation of biomarker (42%), risks (42%), and uninformative results (38%). Clinicians added cost (59%) to the list of preferred topics.

Patients preferred receiving information regarding molecular testing from their nurses or physicians (85%). Physicians preferred the use of pamphlets (67%) to supplement communication with their patients.

These results could direct the development of guidelines and contribute to effective communication about molecular testing and its role in cancer therapy and clinical trial selection, the authors concluded.


1. Pinheiro AP, Pocock RH, Switchenko JM, et al. Discussing molecular testing in oncology care: comparing patient and physician information preferences. Cancer. 2017 Jan 31. doi: 10.1002/cncr.30494 [Epub ahead of print]