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Rohrmoser, Amy; Pichler, Theresia; Letsch, Anne; Westphalen, C. Benedikt; Keilholz, Ulrich; Heinemann, Volker; Goerling, Ute and Herschbach, Peter (2019): Cancer patients' expectations when undergoing extensive molecular diagnostics-A qualitative study. In: Psycho-Oncology, Vol. 29, No. 2: pp. 423-429

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Objective Precision cancer medicine (PCM) aims at identifying tumor-driving molecular characteristics to improve therapy. Despite early successes for some cancers, the approach faces manifold challenges. Patients undergoing extensive molecular diagnostics (MD) may hope for personal benefit, although chances are small. In order to offer suitable support to this group, health-care professionals need to gain insight into patients' experience. Thus, this study sought to explore the expectations of cancer patients undergoing MD of their tumor. Methods In two German Comprehensive Cancer Centers, 30 patients with advanced-stage cancer who had exhausted conventional treatment and had consented to extensive, research-oriented MD (whole-genome sequencing n = 24, panel sequencing n = 6) participated in semi-structured interviews. Following thematic content analysis by Kuckartz, the interview transcripts were coded for expectations of MD participation and topics closely related. Moreover, patients completed questionnaires on their sociodemographic characteristics, medical history, and psychosocial distress. Results Patients reported to be expecting (a) an improvement of their treatment, (b) a contribution to research, and/or (c) additional insight to their own cancer. Further, they described to feel individually appreciated and to have a reason to maintain hope for cure or recovery by participating in MD. Conclusions Molecular diagnostics participation led patients to feel treated in a more "personalized" way, allowing them a greater sense of control in their situation of severe illness. Oncologists and psycho-oncologists need to ensure comprehensive information and empathetic support for patients undergoing extensive MD to balance their expectations and actual chances of clinical benefit.

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