Clinical mutation assay of tumors: new developments

Anticancer Drugs. 2017 Jan;28(1):1-10. doi: 10.1097/CAD.0000000000000427.


Mutation detection in tumors started with classical cytogenetics as the method of choice more than 50 years ago. Karyotyping proved to be sensitive enough to detect deletions or duplications of large chromosome segments, and translocations. Over time, new techniques were developed to detect mutations that are much smaller in scope. The availability of Sanger sequencing and the invention of the PCR improved the discriminatory power of mutation detection to just one base change in the genomic DNA sequence. Techniques derived from PCR (allele-specific PCR, qPCR) and improved or modified sequencing methods (capillary electrophoresis, pyrosequencing) considerably increased the efficiency and sample throughput of mutation detection assays. With the advent of massive parallel sequencing [also called next-generation sequencing (NGS)] in the past decade, a major shift to even higher sample throughput and a significant decrease in cost per sequenced base occurred. The application of the new technology provided a whole slew of novel biomarkers and potential therapy targets to improve diagnosis and treatment. It even led to changes in cancer classification as new information on the mutation profile of tumors became available that characterizes some disease entities better than morphology. NGS, which usually interrogates multiple genes at once and is a prime example of a multianalyte assay, started to replace older single analyte assays focused on analysis of one target, one gene. However, the transition to these extremely complex NGS-based assays is associated with multiple challenges. There are issues with adequate tissue source of nucleic acids, sequencing library preparation, bioinformatics, government regulations and oversight, reimbursement, and electronic medical records that need to be resolved to successfully implement the new technology in a clinical laboratory.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Alleles
  • DNA Mutational Analysis / methods*
  • High-Throughput Nucleotide Sequencing / methods
  • Humans
  • Mutation
  • Neoplasms / genetics*
  • Polymerase Chain Reaction / methods