TumorClear (NGS Panel), from Circulogene and Health Alliance, Empowers Oncologists to Make the Right Decision for Patients

Circulogene, a Health Alliance partner, has released a game-changing panel that is empowering oncologists across the country. The TumorClear NGS panel provides the oncologist with a molecular profile that is used to prescribe targeted patient treatment at the time of diagnosis. 


It’s also used to understand the patient’s response to treatment or provide molecular insight in cases where symptomatic or radiographic concerns indicate a need for retesting. At Circulogene, NGS and PCR methodologies are combined to provide the client with a comprehensive and extensive market portfolio. 


This is only possible because combining the instrumentation from both methodologies provides the breadth of the DNA menu as well as the depth of RNA detection. It’s the latest innovation in the realm of oncology. Let’s take a look at what NGS panels are and how this new addition could help to support cancer treatment.

What are NGS Panels?

NGS briefly stands for Next-Generation Sequencing. It is a very powerful tool that is used in genetic testing. NGS is commonly used in various areas of genetic research, including research that is intended to identify disease-causing mutations, in cases where scientists want to predict responses to certain treatments, and for studying complex genetic traits. 


NGS panels are also used in clinical settings for diagnosing genetic disorders and for providing personalized treatment plans. In oncology, specifically, NGS panels are used to identify novel and rare cancer mutations. They are also used to detect cancer mutation carriers within families and to provide molecular rationale for targeted therapy. 

Advantages of NGS Panels

In general, NGS panels can be customized to target specific sets of genes that are associated with particular diseases or conditions, such as cancer, pharmacogenomics, inherited disorders, and infectious diseases. 


In oncology, before the introduction of NGS panels, there was limited information on tumor mutational status as the traditional methods, Sanger sequencing and PCR methodologies, can analyze only one gene at a time. These were the gold standard before NGS panels came into place. However, analyzing only one gene at a time can be very time-consuming especially if one is trying to discover new target genes. 


NGS panels are specifically designed to target and amplify specific regions of interest in the genome, where they allow for efficient and cost-effective sequencing of relevant genetic information. By focusing on specific genes or genomic regions, the panels eliminate the need for sequencing the entire genome, which saves both time and money.

Real-World Applications

One study published in the Lancet in 2023 that was conducted among 139 cancer patients, evaluated whether the patients’ clinical course, measured as progression-free survival (PFS), was influenced by clinical judgment or drug-based criteria. 


The results showed that when NGS testing is performed within clinical judgment it provides the benefit of significantly improved PFS. This benefit was noted in “patients with advanced cancers that routinely need multiple genetic markers, patients with advanced rare cancers, or patients that are screened for molecular clinical trials.” 

There are several key steps that are typically involved in the workflow of NGS panels:


  • Target Enrichment: Genomic regions of interest are selectively enriched using various capture methods, such as hybridization-based capture or amplicon-based PCR.
  • Library Preparation: Enriched DNA fragments are then prepared into sequencing libraries through adapter ligation, fragmentation, and PCR amplification.
  • Sequencing: The prepared libraries are sequenced using NGS platforms, generating millions of short DNA sequence reads.
  • Data Analysis: To understand the data, you would then use bioinformatics tools to align, assemble, and analyze the sequencing data. From this, genetic variants can be identified and their clinical significance interpreted.

Advantages of NGS Panels Offer Over the Traditional Sequencing 


To better understand the innovation from Health Alliance partner, Circulogene, we should look at the advantages of NGS panels.


High Sensitivity and Specificity: NGS panels can detect genetic variants with a high level of sensitivity and specificity, which enables the identification of rare or low-frequency variants that are associated with diseases. In oncology, they can do this with as little as 5% of the DNA that’s been isolated from a tumor sample.


Multiplexing Capability: Since NGS panels allow for simultaneous analysis of multiple samples or genomic regions, this increases throughput and efficiency. It also reduces costs. 

Reduced Turnaround Time: The streamlined workflow of NGS panels enables rapid turnaround times, and this makes them well-suited for clinical diagnostics and time-sensitive research applications. In most cases, it may take about ten days from the time the lab receives the tumor specimen to the physician having the report in hand to discuss with the patient.


Cost-Effectiveness: By targeting specific genomic regions, NGS panels minimize sequencing costs and data storage requirements, offering a cost-effective solution for genomic analysis.



Of course, the NGS panels are not without limitations, and here are a few that the experts are aware of:


  • NGS requires fast data processing that goes hand-in-hand with sophisticated bioinformatics systems, as well as large data storage capabilities. All of these can be costly. 
  • Even in institutions where money to purchase sequencing equipment is not an issue, many still lack not only the computational resources but also staff that is trained to analyze and interpret the data.
  • NGS provides information on a large number of molecular abnormalities, the clinical significance of which is still unknown.


The Takeaway

Cancer claimed the lives of 10 million people in 2020 and has been identified as the leading cause of death worldwide. Traditional chemotherapy and radiotherapy treatment have severe limitations in terms of their efficacy, and also sadly induce nasty and substantial side effects. This has opened a gap for more precision science to step in, medicine that will bring huge improvements in oncology patient outcomes. 


Next Generation Sequencing is here to address that gap in medicine. It has revolutionized genomic research and clinical diagnostics by facilitating the discovery of novel disease-associated genes, biomarkers, and therapeutic targets. With continued advancements in sequencing technology and bioinformatics, next-generation sequencing holds immense promise for advancing precision medicine and improving patient outcomes, not only in oncology but across a wide range of medical disciplines.


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