When evaluating the potential of clinical genomics, a lot of attention is rightly focused on the challenges of interpretation, and the need for more phenotypes to power statistically-driven interpretation of clinically relevant variants.
But another challenge exists even before that step, in the way patient samples are collected and prepared. In a recent study meant to determine personalized medicine options for pancreatic cancer patients, the researchers found that many physicians were reluctant to even conduct tissue biopsies since so few treatment options are available for that cancer type.
The researchers also found that it could takes months for a sample to be processed, unless it was chaperoned by a researcher, in which case it took just days. Priority handling was not the default for the pathology labs involved in the study, and time is a scarce resource for cancer patients. One of the researchers involved in the study made the point that "some of the best treatment options for those patients are to be part of a clinical trial," and time is of the essence when trying to identify suitable trials.