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Home » Healthcare Policy, Lung Cancer

Recent advances in personalised medicine in lung cancer – how can the benefits be leveraged throughout Europe?

Submitted by on 14 Jul 2017 – 09:20

Michael Koehler, Commercial Portfolio Lead and Jason Almond, Brand Director, Oncology International Developed Markets at Pfizer discuss why it is imperative to support routine biomarker testing for lung cancer in Europe

Despite the highest mortality rates worldwide amongst all types of cancer, (1) significant progress has been made over the last decade in the classification and subsequent treatment of patients with advanced non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC).

In patients whose average life expectancy traditionally ranged around one year, survival of more than 4 years has now been described for patients with NSCLC that bears one of the so-called driver mutations named EGFR, ROS1, or ALK. (2) This much more favourable outcome is achieved through specific targeting of these drivers with EGFR, ROS1 and ALK inhibitors.

A patient population of up to 20% of those with advanced NSCLC can potentially benefit from these recent breakthrough therapies. (3)

Such tremendous advances in patients’ outcome can only be achieved with the accurate identification of these oncogenic drivers through biomarker testing at the time of initial diagnosis of lung cancer.

Healthcare systems in Europe are still facing numerous challenges with the introduction of routine biomarker testing in lung cancer. (4) Systemic hurdles are spanning technical issues, process-related gaps, insufficient education and funding issues.

Numerous efforts were undertaken by medical societies, healthcare funds, patient advocacy groups and industry to establish a proficient and well-functioning testing landscape. However, there remains a huge discrepancy in the percentage of NSCLC patients tested for biomarkers across the European Union, varying from far less than 50% up to 90% in different countries. (5)

The result of this shortfall in testing is that a large number of patients are not benefitting from the most efficacious, proven treatment options for their lung cancer.

To allow lung cancer patients access to the most appropriate treatments for their individual disease, it is imperative that the European and national health care policies support routine biomarker testing.

National cancer plans as cornerstones for the continuous development of innovative healthcare systems can play a crucial role in establishing routine testing by incentivising cancer centres, supporting the establishment of multi-disciplinary teams, and providing appropriate funding.

The authors are employees of Pfizer, Oncology International Developed Markets and in their roles are responsible for the commercial development of medicines in lung cancer.

References:

1. Int. J. Cancer: 136, E359–E386 (2015) CV 2014 UICC

2. Clin Cancer Res; 21 (12); 2745-52.  2015 AACR

3. J Thorac Oncol. 2016 May;11(5)613-38. doi 10.1016j.jtho.2016.03.012.

4. J Thorac Oncol. 2016 Jul;11(7)1040-50. doi 10.1016j.jtho.2016.03.010.

5. Ipsos Oncology Monitor  (Q2 2016 Moving Annual Totals) – Projected Data (data on file)