AMP survey finds decline in molecular testing for cancer during pandemic

Feb. 24, 2021

Laboratory staffing and supply shortages are limiting patient access to critical cancer screening tests that guide treatment decisions, according to preliminary results of a survey released by the Association for Molecular Pathology (AMP) as reported in a news release.

Overall, 85 percent of respondents reported that molecular testing for cancer decreased during April-June 2020. Additionally, more than half of the respondents said that oncology testing for clinical trials decreased due to lower enrollment, reluctance to travel, or ability to perform testing. The survey results indicate that the pandemic will continue to have long-term effects on molecular diagnostic testing for cancer, as laboratories reported that the COVID-19 shutdowns decreased or halted their development or validation of new tests, increased turnaround times for tests, and stopped or canceled orders for new equipment.

The survey of clinical laboratories, “Molecular Testing for Cancer during COVID-19” is part of an ongoing series of COVID-19 surveys, which AMP says it administers “to monitor, understand, and collect real-time data on laboratories' efforts and experiences during the COVID-19 pandemic response.”

The latest anonymous survey assessed how important components of molecular diagnostic testing for cancer – including testing volumes, laboratory operations, clinical trial testing, patient samples, and turnaround times – were affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. The preliminary results included feedback from 163 representatives from academic medical centers, commercial reference laboratories, and community hospitals in the United States and around the world.

In explaining the survey results, Antonia R. Sepulveda, MD, PhD, AMP President and Professor and Chair of the George Washington School of Medicine Department of Pathology, said, “The results of this survey bring to light the larger impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on patients’ access to high quality, appropriate testing. Addressing the shortfalls identified in this survey will help to ensure that all clinical laboratory testing, including molecular diagnostic testing for cancer, can be performed in a timely manner.”

As was the case in AMP’s April and August SARS-CoV-2 molecular testing surveys, the current results show supply chain and staffing shortages.

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