[Skip to Content]
[Skip to Content Landing]
December 17, 1982

Cancer drug sensitivity test has problems

JAMA. 1982;248(23):3079-3084. doi:10.1001/jama.1982.03330230005002

This article is only available in the PDF format. Download the PDF to view the article, as well as its associated figures and tables.


A commercially available laboratory test for predicting the chemosensitivity of tumor cells is plagued by technical problems and appears to work effectively with only a few types of cancer, according to reports delivered at the 13th International Cancer Conference in Seattle.

The Human Tumor Clonogenic Assay (HTCA)— also known as the human tumor stem cell assay—is an in vitro test designed to show whether a specific tumor is sensitive or resistant to a battery of anticancer drugs. In a manner analogous to bacterial sensitivity tests used for assigning antibiotics, HTCA results are now being used by some oncologists to tailor chemotherapy to the needs of individual patients.

But a number of tumor types don't grow well—and leukemias and lymphomas don't grow at all—under the culture conditions used in the test. In addition, a National Cancer Institute (NCI) study has shown that HTCA is not sensitive to the effects of six