ECPC and its members push for better access to groundbreaking cancer testing
- The European Cancer Patient Coalition launches a new initiative to promote personalised medicine in cancer care: Personalised Medicine Awareness Month – Cracking the Cancer Code
- Over 3 million people are diagnosed with cancer in Europe each year.
- The European Cancer Patient Coalition calls for greater access to molecular and biomarker testing, to help patients get the right treatment for them.
- A personalised approach can help to promote better diagnosis, treatment and care for people living with cancer.
The European Cancer Patient Coalition is launching the Personalised Medicine Awareness Month taking place throughout November, which aims to raise awareness of, and increase access to, molecular and biomarker testing in cancer care.
A changing treatment approach in cancer
Traditionally, cancer treatment has focused on the location of the cancer in the body. Depending on the type of cancer, patients receive specific treatments such as chemotherapy, surgery, radiotherapy or immunotherapy. But not every person with cancer responds to these treatments in the same way. What works for one person may not work for another, and some patients may suffer serious side effects from treatment that is also ineffective. This could lead to emotional and financial stress, placing a serious burden on people with cancer, their carers, families and national healthcare systems.
Now, thanks to breakthrough technological advances, it is becoming possible to treat people with cancer based on ‘who’ they are, not just ‘where’ their cancer is located.
One of the biggest advances in cancer treatment includes biomarkers and other types of molecular testing. For example, genetic profiling can help to select or predict those individuals with colorectal cancer who are likely to derive therapeutic benefit from specific treatments. Some blood tests have been developed that improve the assessment of lung cancer risk in smokers, and other tests can identify individuals at high risk of developing acute myeloid leukemia (AML) years before diagnosis.
Varying access to molecular testing
Molecular testing – analysis of various cancer biomarkers – is already available for many types of cancer. Awareness about cancer molecular testing remains low – only 23% of European doctors feel that their patients are always fully informed about molecular or biomarker testing. Its use in Europe varies by country, because in many countries diagnostic tests are not integrated into clinical practice and are not routinely reimbursed or available to all people with cancer.
The main barriers to the integration of molecular testing into the EU’s healthcare systems are:
- Lack of integration of diagnostic regulations into medicines’ regulation frameworks
- Lack of investment in education (particularly for people with cancer and healthcare professionals) about molecular testing
- Lack of investment in increased availability of testing/ diagnostics and decision support tools
- Lack of programs to ensure the quality of biomarker/molecular testing in some EU countries
- Insufficiently-regulated policies and unclear guidelines on data usage.
Potential benefits of molecular testing
Improved and better targeted treatment and quality of care means fewer side-effects and distress, as well as faster access for people with cancer to new treatment options – all of which improve quality of life. For healthcare systems at a national level, this translates to cost benefits through a more effective use of resources, fewer tests or lines of therapy and fewer hospital days for people with cancer.
Cracking the Cancer Code: Personalised Medicine Awareness Month – November 2018
This month is Personalised Medicine Awareness Month. ECPC stands with patients and caregivers across Europe, to call for:
- Increased access and decreased waiting times for high quality molecular testing to make personalised healthcare more of a reality across Europe;
- More information to educate and empower patients and caregivers around the potential and availability of molecular testing;
- A harmonised and more efficient regulatory framework across Europe which could increase access to, and potentially reduce the cost of, molecular testing.
The European Cancer Patient Coalition is working in collaboration with European Alliance for Personalised Medicine, Cancer Drug Development Forum and International Quality Network for Pathology.
For more information please visit: ecpc.org//personalisedmedicine2018
 Oncologist. 2016. Mar: 21(3): 292-300