In 2014 the European Medicines Agency included exon 2, 3 and 4 KRAS and NRAS testing for the selection of metastatic colorectal cancer (mCRC) patients eligible for the therapy with anti-EGFR monoclonal antibodies. The Italian Association of Medical Oncology (AIOM) and the Italian Society of Pathology and Cytology (SIAPEC) organized an external quality assessment (EQA) scheme for CRC to evaluate inter-laboratory consistency and to ensure standardization of the results in the transition from KRAS to all-RAS testing.
Ten formalin fixed paraffin embedded specimens including KRAS/NRAS (exons 2, 3, 4) and BRAF (codon 600) mutations were validated by three referral laboratories and sent to 88 participant centers. Molecular pathology sample reports were also requested to each laboratory. A board of assessors from AIOM and SIAPEC evaluated the results according to a predefined scoring system. The scheme was composed of two rounds.
In the first round 36 % of the 88 participants failed, with 23 centers having at least one false positive or false negative while 9 centers did not meet the deadline. The genotyping error rate was higher when Sanger sequencing was employed for testing as compared with pyrosequencing (3 vs 1.3 %; p = 0.01; Pearson Chi Square test). In the second round, the laboratories improved their performance, with 23/32 laboratories passing the round. Overall, 79/88 participants passed the RAS EQA scheme. Standardized Human Genome Variation Society nomenclature was incorrectly used to describe the mutations identified and relevant variations were noticed in the genotype specification.
The results of the Italian RAS EQA scheme indicate that the mutational analyses are performed with good quality in many Italian centers, although significant differences in the methods used were highlighted. The relatively high number of centers failing the first round underlines the fundamental role in continued education covered by EQA schemes.