The study suggests the value of so-called next generation sequencing, a sophisticated method of evaluating the DNA and RNA of a tumor to help direct treatment.

A report on the first 500 patients with advanced solid tumors to go through the University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center’s sequencing program found that 72 percent qualified for a clinical trial based on a genetic marker in their tumor.

While not all of those patients were able to enroll in a trial based on other eligibility factors and trial location, the number who did enroll doubled from approximately 5 percent of patients in 2012 to 11 percent in 2016. Increased trial enrollment occurred as several major national biomarker-based studies opened.

“Availability of biomarker trials is crucial for being able to act on these results. Over time, we became better at matching patients to clinical trials as more of these basket trials opened,” says Erin Cobain, M.D., clinical lecturer of hematology/oncology at the University of Michigan Medical School.

Cobain will present these findings at the American Society of Clinical Oncology annual meeting.

The Michigan Oncology Sequencing Center began in 2011, sequencing the DNA and RNA of metastatic cancers and normal tissue to identify alterations that could help drive treatment. About 900 patients with advanced cancer have enrolled to date. The analysis presented at ASCO focuses on the first 500 patients with solid tumors.

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Dr. Stegall’s Comments: I believe in genetic testing for all cancer patients, with the caveat that we keep in mind that the genetic changes we see in cancer are almost always a symptom of the cause. With very few exceptions, “bad genes” don’t cause cancer, but cancer does result in changes to the genes. I believe that we must be aware of these genetic changes so that we can potentially find targets for treatment. However, at its core, cancer is a metabolic disease resulting from the many cellular insults to which we expose our bodies.