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An interview with Dr D’Errico on the use of biomarker testing for carcinoma of unknown primary

Mélanie Moxhet

May 17, 2021


Carcinoma of unknown primary (CUP) are a diagnostic and therapeutic challenge for physicians. Without knowing the primary location of a cancer, it is much harder to predict whether a patient will respond to standard chemotherapy. Dr Gabriele D’Errico is medical oncologist at the University Hospital Quirónsalud in Madrid, Spain. Over the years, he has acquired great experience in the treatment of CUP. In this interview, Dr D’Errico told us about the impact of comprehensive biomarker testing on his patients’ therapeutic response and overall survival.

OncoDNA: Dr D’Errico, in your daily practice you see many patients diagnosed with head and neck cancers as well as carcinomas of unknown primary. Could you please tell us the major challenge you face when treating CUP patients?

Dr D’Errico: The challenge with carcinomas of unknown primary is to know how to treat this kind of tumors. Chemotherapy has been the standard treatment of CUP patients. Very few actually respond well to standard therapy. Without biomarker testing, it is hard for me to decide on the drug that is the most likely to improve their clinical outcomes.

OncoDNA: Do you rely on any tools to guide your treatment decisions?

Dr D’Errico: I found a solution to this challenge thanks to OncoDNA. Its comprehensive biomarker test tells me exactly which chemotherapy is best for my patients. It helps me to choose between platinum or capecitabine chemotherapy drug for example.

OncoDNA: Have you observed any concrete results in your patients’ clinical outcomes?

Dr D’Errico: Before I started using comprehensive biomarker testing, I provided my patients with standard chemotherapy and the overall survival was very low. Now that I run such testing, I know exactly which chemotherapy is likely to be the most effective for each individual patient and the overall survival has skyrocketed. Actually, a third of my CUP patients have developed a complete response and the overall survival is the highest among all the IV-stage patients that I treat.

OncoDNA: Would you recommend using comprehensive biomarker testing for all cancer patients?

Dr D’Errico: I absolutely recommend using comprehensive biomarker testing for CUP patients. When oncologists detect a low response rate to standard chemotherapy among their patients, I also recommend them trying biomarker testing – whatever the cancer type.