Biomarker testing allows cancer patients to receive optimal treatment – and perhaps even avoid chemotherapy.
So explains Sakeer Hussain, MD, in “Biomarker Testing: Allowing Individualized Treatment for Cancer Patients,” a new policy brief from the Alliance for Patient Access.
By examining the biological components from a biopsy, health care professionals can use biomarker tests to predict which treatments will work best for a patient. Biomarker testing unlocks a world of information about each patient and can help inform health care providers on the path forward.
The Benefits of Biomarkers
According to Dr. Hussain, “biomarker testing allows for a new level of individualization.” These tests are considered part of precision medicine, an approach that emphasizes developing treatment plans for each patient based on unique conditions and needs.
Biomarker testing provides clarity, empowering health care providers to:
- Diagnose with certainty and specificity. Providers can identify a patient’s cancer with greater specificity and certainty thanks to biomarker testing.
- Identify optimal, individualized treatment. With a clear understanding of a patient’s unique biomarkers and cancer, providers can formulate a path forward.
With a precise diagnosis and individualized treatment plan, some patients can even avoid chemotherapy. That’s because biomarker testing eliminates uncertainty by indicating which targeted medications are most likely to work for the patient.
Available Doesn’t Mean Accessible
The field is expanding so rapidly that some physicians struggle to keep up to date, Dr. Hussain explains. Meanwhile, patients may face barriers such as:
- Coverage issues. Insurers may not cover certain tests, or their coverage may vary based on a patient’s cancer diagnosis.
- Delays. For patients on Medicare, billing logistics require a waiting period that delays patients’ access to testing and subsequent targeted treatment.
- Treatment costs. While the cost of biomarker testing might be covered by insurance companies, there is no guarantee that insurers will also cover the cost of the treatment that follows. Patients may face excessive out-of-pocket expenses.
As cancer care advances, Dr. Hussain concludes, cancer patients need access to testing that will provide them with optimal treatment.
To learn more, read “Biomarker Testing: Allowing Individualized Treatment for Cancer Patients.”