Essential biomarker testing technologies like next-generation sequencing (NGS) are increasing our comprehension of cancer genetics and genomics. Biomarker testing results provide prognostic and predictive information about a tumor’s biology and growth to guide treatment decisions. Patients with cancer are turning to their oncology nurses to help them understand their complex test results and corresponding recommended treatment plans, yet many oncology nurses have minimal, if any, formal training in the area.

NGS, a now-common biomarker testing technology, identifies a tumor’s molecular fingerprint that has many implications for patient care, one being it may predict its response to a biomarker-directed therapy. Just as the swirls on the ends of our fingers are unique to each person, so is an NGS molecular fingerprint unique to each tumor. NGS not only identifies a broken process in a tumor’s DNA whose growth could be corrected with targeted therapy, but it also highlights who is likely to benefit from certain treatments, ultimately supporting value-driven decision-making. Additionally, NGS can identify the molecular fingerprints we inherited from our parents that, if broken, can increase our risk for developing certain types of cancer and require us to take extra screening and prevention precautions.

Practice Resource for Oncology Nurses

ONS’s NGS Toolkit supports nurses working with patients with cancer who are being tested and treated based on their tumor’s molecular properties. The toolkit:

  • Reviews NGS’s definition and clinical impact
  • Illustrates the types of NGS testing available
  • Outlines the step-by-step testing process, from choosing the right test to reading a sample report that highlights important sections for nurses to review to inform their patient care
  • Provides a comprehensive glossary for genomic terminology and patient education discussion points for nurses to consider for patients who have questions about their NGS test results

Use the NGS Toolkit in Practice

From differentiating the various testing naming conventions to understanding reports and results, the toolkit guides oncology nurses through a complete overview of NGS. It helps nurses see the entire clinical picture, including NGS’s impact on patients and clinical practice and your role as an oncology nurse during the testing process. Finally, embedded links lead you to more ONS resources such as the Genomics Taxonomy, Biomarker Database, and a FAQ about nursing considerations related to biomarker testing.

Nurses can use the easy-to-understand discussion tool to answer patients’ “what,” “why,” and “how” questions and reassure patients who are anxious about waiting for test results before starting treatment with the toolkit’s explanation about how NGS’s personalized approach to treatment can help increase survival and reduce side effects.

Ultimately, resources like ONS’s NGS toolkit and other genomics education information and tools build nurses’ confidence and abilities during patient conversations about how precision oncology is being used to treat their cancer.