Genet Med. 2021 May 18. doi: 10.1038/s41436-021-01187-w. Online ahead of print.
PURPOSE: To evaluate the impact of technically challenging variants on the implementation, validation, and diagnostic yield of commonly used clinical genetic tests. Such variants include large indels, small copy-number variants (CNVs), complex alterations, and variants in low-complexity or segmentally duplicated regions.
METHODS: An interlaboratory pilot study used synthetic specimens to assess detection of challenging variant types by various next-generation sequencing (NGS)-based workflows. One well-performing workflow was further validated and used in clinician-ordered testing of more than 450,000 patients.
RESULTS: In the interlaboratory study, only 2 of 13 challenging variants were detected by all 10 workflows, and just 3 workflows detected all 13. Limitations were also observed among 11 less-challenging indels. In clinical testing, 21.6% of patients carried one or more pathogenic variants, of which 13.8% (17,561) were classified as technically challenging. These variants were of diverse types, affecting 556 of 1,217 genes across hereditary cancer, cardiovascular, neurological, pediatric, reproductive carrier screening, and other indicated tests.
CONCLUSION: The analytic and clinical sensitivity of NGS workflows can vary considerably, particularly for prevalent, technically challenging variants. This can have important implications for the design and validation of tests (by laboratories) and the selection of tests (by clinicians) for a wide range of clinical indications.