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Predictive molecular pathology in the time of COVID-19
  1. Umberto Malapelle1,
  2. Caterina De Luca1,
  3. Antonino Iaccarino1,
  4. Francesco Pepe1,
  5. Pasquale Pisapia1,
  6. Maria Russo1,
  7. Roberta Sgariglia1,
  8. Mariantonia Nacchio1,
  9. Elena Vigliar1,
  10. Claudio Bellevicine1,
  11. Fernando C Schmitt2,
  12. Giancarlo Troncone1
  1. 1 Public Health, University of Naples Federico II, Naples, Italy
  2. 2 Pathology, IPATIMUP and Medical Faculty of Porto, Porto, Portugal
  1. Correspondence to Professor Giancarlo Troncone, Public Health, University of Naples Federico II, Naples 80131, Italy; giancarlo.troncone{at}


Aims In the time of COVID-19, predictive molecular pathology laboratories must still timely select oncological patients for targeted treatments. However, the need to respect social distancing measures may delay results generated by laboratory-developed tests based on sequential steps a long hands-on time. Laboratory workflows should now be simplified.

Methods The organisation of the University of Naples Federico II predictive pathology laboratory was assessed before (March–April 2019) and during (March–April 2020) the Italian lockdown.

Results The number of patients undergoing single or multiple biomarker testing was similar in 2019 (n=43) and in 2020 (n=45). Considering adequate samples for molecular testing, before the outbreak, next-generation sequencing was mostly used (35/42, 83.3%). Testing six genes had a reagent cost of €98/patient. Conversely, in 2020, almost all cases (38/41, 92.7%) were analysed by automated testing. This latter had for any single assay/gene a significant reagent cost (€95–€136) and a faster mean turnaround time (5.3 vs 7.9 working days).

Conclusion In the times of coronavirus, laboratory fully automated platforms simplify predictive molecular testing. Laboratory staff may be more safely and cost-effectively managed.

  • pathology, molecular
  • medical oncology
  • laboratory personnel

Data availability statement

Data are available upon reasonable request to the corresponding author.

This article is made freely available for use in accordance with BMJ’s website terms and conditions for the duration of the covid-19 pandemic or until otherwise determined by BMJ. You may use, download and print the article for any lawful, non-commercial purpose (including text and data mining) provided that all copyright notices and trade marks are retained.

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Data availability statement

Data are available upon reasonable request to the corresponding author.

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  • Handling editor Runjan Chetty.

  • Twitter @PasqualePisapia

  • Contributors UM and GT conceived the study; CDL, FP, MR, RS and MN contributed as biotechnologists; AI contributed as laboratory technician; UM and PP contributed as molecular pathologists; EV, CB, FCS and GT contributed as cytopathologists; UM, FP, PP and GT wrote the paper; all authors approved the final version of the manuscript.

  • Funding The authors have not declared a specific grant for this research from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.

  • Competing interests UM reports personal fees (as speaker bureau or advisor) from Boehringer Ingelheim, AstraZeneca, Roche, MSD, Amgen, Merck and BMS. GT reports personal fees (as speaker bureau or advisor) from Roche, MSD and Pfizer.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; internally peer reviewed.