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Patients’ cancers should be genetically profiled to improve care, health experts say

Published on 09/08/22 at 10:24am

A consensus group of leading experts have shared that the NHS should offer all cancer patients genetic profiling of their cancers at diagnosis and during treatment, to shape their care, and track how the disease evolves.

The routine use of ‘biomarker’ tests and molecular profiling of cancers should be used to guide the use of precision medicines, the experts have shared.

The group members called for barriers preventing patients from gaining access to these tests to be removed, so that genetic information and other tests could be routinely used to select the most suitable precision medicine for each patient.

Biomarker tests look for genetic, protein, or imaging ‘markers’ to identify which patients are most likely to respond to treatment.

Professor Kristian Helin, Chief Executive of The Institute of Cancer Research, London, commented:

“We believe every cancer patient should have the opportunity for their cancer to be molecularly profiled to assess biomarkers that can give vital clues about how their disease should best be treated. Biomarker tests can direct treatment precisely to the patients who will most benefit, which can both improve the lives of patients and increase the cost-effectiveness of treatment for the NHS.”

The consensus group was convened by The Institute of Cancer Research, London, and included nine leading institutions, charities, stakeholder groups, and life-science companies. These included Cancer Research UK, and the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry.

“It’s essential that the regulations that govern clinical trials and the approval of new tests and treatments keep pace with the rapidly moving science,” Helin continued. “At the moment, it can be hard to get new biomarker tests developed, approved and made available for patients. That can in turn act as a disincentive for companies and academics to develop new biomarkers to guide treatment in the future.”

The statements call for a series of changes in the way biomarker tests are developed, made available, and routinely used in the UK. The experts called for patients’ cancers to be “molecularly profiled as standard within the NHS”.

Ana Ovey

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