Causes behind error rates for predictive biomarker testing: the utility of sending post-EQA surveys

Cleo Keppens, Ed Schuuring, Elisabeth M C Dequeker*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

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Abstract

External quality assessment (EQA) schemes assess the performance of predictive biomarker testing in lung and colorectal cancer and have previously demonstrated variable error rates. No information is currently available on the underlying causes of incorrect EQA results in the laboratories. Participants in EQA schemes by the European Society of Pathology between 2014 and 2018 for lung and colorectal cancer were contacted to complete a survey if they had at least one analysis error or test failure in the provided cases. Of the 791 surveys that were sent, 325 were completed including data from 185 unique laboratories on 514 incorrectly analyzed or failed cases. For the digital cases and immunohistochemistry, the majority of errors were interpretation-related. For fluorescence in situ hybridization, problems with the EQA materials were reported frequently. For variant analysis, the causes were mainly methodological for lung cancer but variable for colorectal cancer. Post-analytical (clerical and interpretation) errors were more likely detected after release of the EQA results compared to pre-analytical and analytical issues. Accredited laboratories encountered fewer reagent problems and more often responded to the survey. A recent change in test methodology resulted in method-related problems. Testing more samples annually introduced personnel errors and lead to a lower performance in future schemes. Participation to quality improvement projects is important to reduce deviating test results in laboratories, as the different error causes differently affect the test performance. EQA providers could benefit from requesting root cause analyses behind errors to offer even more tailored feedback, subschemes, and cases.

Original languageEnglish
Number of pages12
JournalVirchows Archiv : an International Journal of Pathology
DOIs
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 23-Nov-2020

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