What is Tumor Profiling?

Cancer patients are often treated with targeted cell treatments like radiation, but they have to be thoroughly tested first – the test is called tumor profiling, but how does it work? At a foundation level, it is a test carried out on cancer patients that analyzes DNA changes in tumors, and determines whether they qualify for targeted cell treatments like chemotherapy; there have been enormous advancements in recent years in this area. Throughout this article, we will find out what is involved in tumor profiling, including whether you fit the criteria for the test.

You may also come across other names for tumor profiling. These include tumor testing, biomarker testing, molecular testing/profiling, somatic testing, and tumor subtyping.


As a general rule, targeted cell therapies are used for specific types of cancers that are directly related to genetic mutations and respond well to targeted treatments. These cancers include melanoma, lung cancer, colon cancer, and sarcoma. Further, if you have another type of cancer that is not responding to treatments, you may also be eligible for tumor profiling.

If you do not fit the criteria but are still concerned, you can contact a health practitioner and ask about genomic testing. This is often used on normal cells to determine if you have any inherited mutations. You can also have the test done to find out if you will pass anything to your future children.

Fortunately, the majority of insurance plans will include tumor profile testing, even though some of them require evidence that the test is necessary. Depending on what type of cancer you have will depend largely on how much the test will cost. However, there are increasing amounts of medical trials that offer tumor profiling.

The Process

Before targeting cell therapies, cancer treatments would work to activate cells throughout the entire body. However, with great advancements in technologies, only the specific genes that drive the tumor growth are targeted.

The best place to start is by talking to your healthcare provider about your concerns, they will then recommend the best course of action. Once you have been confirmed for testing, your oncologist will begin by collecting a sample of the tumor tissues, which is usually carried out through a biopsy. If your tumor is solid, then you might need to undergo surgery for the sample to be retrieved. Once your sample has been collected, the DNA of the tumor is extracted from the cells before being purified and sent to a lab for microscopic analysis.

When the DNA arrives at the lab, it is sequenced to find out if the gene mutations present would be responsive to target treatments. In some circumstances, you may need to provide a sample of healthy cells for comparisons to be made. Once your tests have been completed, a report will be generated and sent to your healthcare provider for discussion.

Everyone has a different genetic makeup, therefore, tumor profiling falls under the umbrella of precision medicine. That is, using biomarker tests to determine personal treatments, which saves a patient from undergoing ineffective treatments.

The Drawbacks

One of the greatest drawbacks to tumor profiling is that targeted treatments haven’t caught up – hundreds of genes within a tumor can be identified, but only a small number can be treated at this time. Moreover, owing to the changeability of cancer cells, the impact of targeted therapies can be temporary. If you were to have another test done at a later date your results may be different. Further, if you have the treatment and the tumor shrinks initially, there is no guarantee that it will work despite the test results.

Tumor profiling, or biomarker testing, is the standardized means of testing cancer patients for the eligibility of targeted cancer treatments. Although more research is still needed to bring therapies in line with the number of genes that cause cancers, technologies have come a long way in saving lives. Tumor profiling does work well to tailor a personalized treatment but it isn’t a guarantee that treatment will work – patients undergoing testing procedures might want to keep an open mind. Once your results are back, your healthcare provider will delicately discuss all options available to you.

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