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CRUK Report Finds Cancer MDx Testing Lagging in UK

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb) – Cost and a lack of awareness about molecular diagnostic testing has resulted in thousands of cancer patients in theUKmissing out on personalized treatments, according to a report issued by Cancer Research UK this week. 

The report, commissioned by CRUK and carried out by health consulting firm Concentra, looked at the National Health Service's molecular diagnostic testing service for cancer patients in England, specifically focusing on skin, lung, and bowel cancer. Such tests, in addition to being able to identify the genetic roots of disease, can often direct clinicians to the most appropriate treatment, CRUK said. In the case of the three cancers it focused on, targeted treatments are already available on the NHS, it added.

Among the report's conclusions is that last year about 24,000 MDx tests were not performed in hospitals in England, and with lung and bowel cancers, 16,000 eligible patients were not tested. Of that, about 3,500 patients — 22 percent — did not get targeted treatments that may have had an impact on their disease, CRUK said. 

"It's lamentable that routine molecular diagnostic testing still hasn't been established, more than two years after Cancer Research UK showed how it can be done with our Stratified Medicine Programme," CRUK's Chief Clinician Peter Johnson said in a statement. 

CRUK originally launched its Stratified Medicine Programme in late 2011 with industry partners to demonstrate how genetic tests can be used to match cancer patients to the most appropriate therapies.

"Despite much talk about innovation in care, the NHS is once again lagging behind, and patients aren't getting tested to see if they might benefit from new types of treatment," Johnson said. 

The two main obstacles to testing is cost and a lack of awareness on the part of physicians, the report said. There currently is no dedicated funding in the UK for MDx testing, and while the government committed four years ago to develop a national commissioning structure for cancer testing, that effort has not progressed and officials in England remain in strategy-building mode, CRUK said. 

The report estimated that the UK will need to invest £13 million ($20.4 million) on top of existing investments to meet the demand for tests and to remain in step with new treatments as they become available as well as new testing technologies.