How to Approach Patients With Metastatic Breast Cancer for Research Biopsies

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There are significant variations in medical oncologist (MO) comfort levels in approaching patients with metastatic breast cancer (MBC) for research purpose-only biopsies (RPOBs), according to a study published online in the journal The Oncologist.

Participants in this study included 221 out of 309 (72%) breast MOs who were invited to complete a self-administered survey addressing their attitudes toward approaching patients for RPOBs or additional biopsies.

Out of the 221 responses, 30 were determined to be ineligible, leaving a total of 191 eligible MO responses.  A majority of the MOs reported feeling comfortable discussing RPOBs of blood or skin with patients, while one fifth of MOs felt uncomfortable approaching patients regarding research biopsies of the breast. 

Similarly, half of the MOs from National Cancer Institute-designated cancer centers reported being uncomfortable approaching patients for RPOBs of the liver.

Results also showed that a statistically significant variation was observed between MOs’ perceptions of their patients’ openness to undergo research biopsies.

Furthermore, among MOs, increased comfort approaching patients about RPOBs was associated with various factors including fewer years in practice, caring for patients who had undergone recent RPOBs, and the predicted willingness of patients to consent to biopsies; whereas, factors attributing to increased reluctance to refer patients for RPOBs were biopsy-related risk and biopsy-related pain.

The study suggests a modifiable factor in increasing tissue collection for cancer research could be MOs’ attitudes.

Larger renal tumors managed with active surveillance are associated with tumor growth and mortality
Significant variations in medical oncologist comfort levels in approaching patients with metastatic breast cancer for research purpose-only biopsies.
Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, Boston, Massachusetts, USA; Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Boston, Massachusetts, USA; Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, New York, New York, USA; Brigham and Women's Hospital, Boston, Massachusetts, USA; Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston, Massachusetts, USA Correspondence: Nancy U. Lin, M.D., Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, 450 Brookline Avenue, Boston, Massachusetts 02215, USA.

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