Genomics, proteomics, and other branches of molecular bioscience offer the prospect of greater precision in medical care, but some clinical tests based on "omics" research have proved invalid and highlighted the challenges of dealing with complex data. To enhance the translation of omics-based discoveries to clinical use, a new report by the Institute of Medicine recommends a detailed process to evaluate whether the data and computational steps underlying such tests are sound and the tests are ready to be used in clinical trials. The proposed process defines responsibilities and best practices for the investigators, research institutions, funders, regulators, and journals involved in development and dissemination of clinical omics-based technologies.
The request for the IOM report stemmed in part from a series of events at Duke University in which researchers claimed that their genomics-based tests were reliable predictors of which chemotherapy would be most effective for specific cancer patients. Failure by many parties to detect or act on problems with key data and computational methods underlying the tests led to the inappropriate enrollment of patients in clinical trials, premature launch of companies, and retraction of dozens of research papers. Five years after they were first made public, the tests were acknowledged to be invalid.