Perspective| Volume 24, ISSUE 2, e69-e77, March 2023

Implementation Challenges and Disparities in Molecular Testing for Patients With Stage IV NSCLC: Perspectives from an Urban Safety-Net Hospital

Published:November 11, 2022DOI:


      The advent of next-generation sequencing (NGS), including both tissue assays and circulating tumor DNA (ct-DNA), has been pivotal in improving outcomes for patients with non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC). Although molecular testing is standard of care for advanced NSCLC, challenges still exist in its implementation. This Perspective examines barriers to the widespread implementation of NGS from the vantage point of a single urban safety-net institution, with a particular focus on examining racial disparities in NGS completion. We conducted a review of patients at our institution from January 2015 through January 2022 and examined molecular testing patterns before and after the publication of updated molecular testing guidelines from the International Association for the Study of Lung Cancer (IASLC), Association for Molecular Pathology (AMP), and College of American Pathologists (CAP) in March of 2018. While NGS increased over time, we found that 43% of patients in the March 2018 through January 2022 group still did not receive NGS, and the most common reasons for the absence of testing included a lack of physician ordering and insufficient tissue on biopsy. We did not note any racial disparities in completion or time-to-adoption of NGS. Patients with squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) histology were noted to receive liquid NGS markedly less often than patients with non-squamous histology in the March 2018 through January 2022 period. Based on our own data and a review of findings from colleagues in the field, we advocate for additional physician educational programming, increased use of ct-DNA biopsy, automated (reflexive) NGS tissue testing on receipt of biopsy, and consideration for the broader molecular profiling of patients with SCC histology.


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