Pharma is going to have to educate cancer patients on biomarkers

SUMMARY: Physicians are not testing cancer patients for biomarkers even as new biomarker targeted therapies are being introduced by pharma companies. Pharma companies, like AZ, are going to have to educate the public on biomarker testing.

Despite longstanding medical guidelines recommending biomarker testing for all patients with metastatic colon cancer, a new study published in JCO Precision Oncology shows that only 40 percent of patients are tested according to guidelines.

These findings are consistent with the rates seen in late-stage lung cancer, where clinical adoption of genomic profiling remains below the recommended standard-of-care guidelines. The result is that many patients are potentially being treated with less effective drugs, some having serious side-effects; while others are not being offered highly effective personalized treatment options.

Who is being tested?

Biomarker testing occurred more often if the patient was male, older than 65, progressed from early-stage disease, or treated in a community cancer center. Furthermore, only 28 percent of patients on anti-EGFR treatments received the necessary testing to determine eligibility. This study also showed that using a comprehensive panel, as opposed to single-gene testing, could possibly result in a 50 percent increase in guideline-recommended testing rates.

Blood sample tube with laboratory requisition form for tumor marker test


1ne: Physicians are overwhelmed with patients and think they know better.

2wo: Because in most cases if they find a mutation then it’s an expensive treatment that usually isn’t in guidelines.

3hree: Insurance doesn’t care.

4our: They feel once the disease is past the “early stage” biomarker testing doesn’t really matter.

5ive: Because newly diagnosed cancer patients are often overwhelmed with health information and treatment options.

Astra Zeneca is trying to educate cancer patients on the importance of biomarker testing but more, a lot more, education is needed. Pharma companies should band together to educate the public via a nationwide campaign.