Can I Get Molecular Testing at Community-Based Cancer Centers?
- Molecular testing is a broad term that refers to the detection of individual molecules or pieces of cancer cells to better characterize a cancer, its behavior — and which treatment options may work better.
- Molecular testing is standard of care for cancer workup and treatment, and is widely available regardless of whether you are being treated at an academic or a community based cancer cancer.
- Academic centers and community centers both offer standard of care treatment for various cancers, although academic centers may have more access to certain treatments that are still in the clinical trial phase.
This is called molecular testing, and refers to a wide range of tests run for different types of cancers — and it could help determine the best treatment path.Read More
The difference between academic and community cancer centers
Dr. Chul Kim, a medical oncologist specializing in lung cancer and thoracic tumors at MedStar Health in Washington, D.C., explained that both academic and community centers can offer standard cancer care.
“In terms of access to standard care, be it chemotherapy, targeted therapy, or immunotherapy, all those approved drugs are available for use regardless of where you get treatment or care,” he explained.
Standard care refers to delivering the appropriate treatment by standards formed based on current medical literature and national guidelines.
Academic cancer centers might have better access to ongoing clinical trials, but clinical trials are different from standard of care. Clinical trials seek to explore the effects of a new medication or compare new treatments to the current standard of care. Additionally, there is a significant amount of variability between different academic centers and community centers alike — making it difficult to make broad claims comparing the different cancer centers.
In summary, for a majority of cancers, whether you go to a community practice or an academic institution, you will have access to the standard of care for treatment. That being said, academic centers might have access to certain treatments — such as new medication — through clinical trials. Additionally, for very rare cancers or unique cases, you may be more likely to find a specialist at academic centers with experience in treating these rare cases.
Dr. Kim explained: “the clinical trial nowadays can also be conducted in the community-based setting. And so it’s not that it is exclusive to academic or university-based cancer center … so I would like to encourage you to discuss with your treating doctor what options there are.”
Can I get molecular testing at community-based centers?
Molecular testing for cancer has become essential to treatment and is standard of care. Again, molecular testing is a broad term that uses detection of individual molecules or pieces of cancer cells to better characterize a cancer, its behavior, and potential targeted (and more effective) treatment options.
There are countless types of molecular tests — each with their own indication and specific question they are trying to answer. The type of molecular testing an individual is given varies based on the cancer type and stage, among other factors — but the technology is available at cancer centers of all sorts.
“There are various technologies out there, platforms available. And these platforms and technologies are available everywhere, not just at the university hospital setting, but also in the community practices” Dr. Kim explained.
It is important regardless of what setting you are being treated in, whether academic or community, to ask your doctor about molecular testing and whether you are a candidate for such tests. Your doctor will be able to discuss the various options for testing and what the results could mean in-depth.
To round it all up, molecular testing is standard of care for cancer treatment and is available at both academic and community centers.
If you have further questions or feel like you are not being offered all available testing and treatment options, be sure to discuss with your healthcare provider or seek a second opinion. Patients should feel comfortable advocating for themselves and seeking answers about diagnostic and treatment options.