Have you been faced with a difficult patient scenario in which you were unsure how to triage a specialized testing request? Do you need guidance on how to select the best molecular technique for a patient, given the many new and advanced techniques populating the marketplace?

If so, let this scientific session be your guide on Thursday, December 17 at 2:00 pm Central: “If at First You Don’t Succeed: An interactive Case-Based View of Emerging Molecular Technologies.” Demand for molecular tests is increasing in parallel with the push for precision medicine throughout healthcare. However molecular techniques are continually being improved, updated, and advanced, making it practically impossible for individual clinical laboratorians to stay up-to-date on all the emerging methods.

Christina Lockwood, PhD, Vera Paulson, MD, PhD, and Scott Lovitch, MD, PhD, present a dynamic and in-depth discussion of the appropriate uses of three advanced molecular techniques: RNA-based next-generation sequencing (NGS), droplet digital polymerase chain reaction, and cell-free DNA NGS. This session focuses on understanding the nuances of patient testing scenarios, especially those in which initial front-line tests have been uninformative.

By using a case-based approach, the speakers reveal the framework they use to select the most appropriate molecular test. As Lockwood explains, “it’s important to recognize that not all molecular tests can answer the same clinical question. Just as in every other area of lab medicine, selecting the most appropriate nucleic acid test requires careful consideration and integrating clinical information.”

Adopting new techniques always comes with challenges, and molecular techniques present additional unique challenges. The landscape of advanced molecular techniques is continuously changing as researchers develop new and improved technologies.

Additionally, the increasing menu of targeted therapies for patients with cancer and a rapidly changing regulatory landscape pose more hurdles for labs implementing advanced molecular techniques. Clinical laboratorians also might not always have the fundamental methodological knowledge required to take on these cutting-edge techniques.

To aid laboratorians in overcoming these many challenges, the speakers describe the practical background knowledge required for each molecular technique, including analytical sensitivity, specificity, clinical utility, and key methodological limitations. Building on this knowledge base, they delve into many logistical nuances—for example, carrying out the appropriate bioinformatic analyses and conquering complexities in result reporting. Furthermore, they consider test cost and turnaround times, specifically how these factors might impact the potential benefits of these advanced methods.

As attendees will learn, molecular testing is not only for specialty or reference laboratories. With instruments and commercial assays becoming more popular and easier to use, Lockwood predicts that more and more molecular techniques will be utilized in routine testing. Consequently, all laboratorians will do well to stay updated on the various molecular technologies and understand where they might best impact patient care.

After this session, attendees will have a foundation of knowledge that will enable them to weight the potential benefits and limitations of genomic testing, including providing initial triage for molecular test requests.