Week in Review: More COVID-19 help for smaller practices | Tackling test supply shortages | Case for AML genetic profiling

Dear LabPulse Member,

The COVID-19 pandemic has understandably taken a back seat following the death of George Floyd in Minnesota and subsequent protests, riots, curfews, and memorials.

But though injustice is front and center and warm weather tricks us into thinking all is well, the novel coronavirus is still among us. Some pathologists have expressed concern on Twitter that we may see the price for protests paid in the form of a surge in cases in a few weeks' time and participants may need to get tested -- masks or no masks.

According to a World Health Organization June 4 report, more than 6.4 million confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 380,000 deaths have been reported globally. In the U.S., the COVID Tracking Project counted more than 1.8 million positive cases and 101,000 deaths as of yesterday.

Concerns about supplies for testing persist. In a recently published survey by the Association for Molecular Pathology, for example, more than 85% of labs said that disruptions to the availability of supplies had a significant effect on their capacity for testing, with swabs topping their wish list. On June 3, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration released an interactive online tool it believes will help labs make substitutions for testing supplies during the pandemic.

Pathology practices received some good news this week with the passage of the Paycheck Protection Program Flexibility Act. The bipartisan legislation loosens up the rules governing the popular Paycheck Protection Program, which provides emergency loans to small businesses. Practices can expect more flexibility, including on the percentage of cash that needs to be earmarked for payroll expenses.

Outside of COVID-19, oncology has been dominating clinical research news relevant to lab medicine lately. Yesterday, for example, researchers published results from a real-world registry study showing there is room to wait for results of genetic profiling and other lab tests in patients with newly diagnosed acute myeloid leukemia (AML).

We also covered numerous reports from the recent American Society for Clinical Oncology meeting, which was held in a virtual format this year. Myriad Genetics reported data that show the potential for personalizing the management of women who have CHEK2 mutations, which are increasingly of interest in breast cancer as well as other tumor types. British researchers reported on what genetic testing could add to prostate cancer screening in men.

We also covered a report on a large study evaluating at-home sample collection with online education in genetic screening for risk of breast and ovarian cancers. At-home sampling could make screening more accessible, though researchers stressed the need for a clinical test with involvement of a health provider, as opposed to a direct-to-consumer product.

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