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ICR calls for improved biomarker cancer tests to help personalise treatment

Each cancer has a unique pattern of biomarkers that can affect how effective treatments are


The Institute of Cancer Research (ICR), London has called for regulators and industry to work together to accelerate the development of biomarker tests to help identify which patients are most likely to benefit from different treatment strategies.

Biomarker testing is a way to look for genes, proteins and other substances that can provide information about cancer.

Each patient’s cancer has a unique pattern of biomarkers that can affect how certain treatments work. Some cancer treatments, for example, including targeted therapies and immunotherapies, may only work for those whose cancers have certain biomarkers.

As well as the benefits provided to patients in helping determine their treatment plan, biomarker tests can also help boost approval rates of new treatments, as they reduce costs by deploying drugs more efficiently.

“Biomarker tests are the key to personalised treatment – and to getting new drugs approved as quickly as possible,” said Professor Kristian Helin, chief executive of the ICR, London.

However, the costs of developing these tests currently outweigh the financial benefits of doing so because of excess regulation and administrative expenses, the ICR said, along with uncertainty over whether tests will be recommended for use within the NHS.

Additionally, drug appraisals typically consider companion tests as an additional cost, which can discourage pharmaceutical companies from investing in developing and bringing forward biomarker tests.

“The problem is that it is surprisingly hard and costly to get new biomarker tests developed, approved and accessible within the NHS. Unnecessary regulatory barriers need to be removed and we need to see biomarker tests as a way of treating patients more efficiently, rather than as an additional cost,” Helin said.

The most recent figures available on the use of biomarker testing show that for 2016 to 2019, only 18% of cancer drugs assessed by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence were accompanied by a biomarker test.

Professor Kevin Harrington, professor of biological cancer therapies at the ICR, London and consultant clinical oncologist at The Royal Marsden said: “Our biological understanding of some treatments, especially immunotherapies, lags behind their clinical development – which means we are struggling to get them to the right patients quickly enough. To tackle this issue, we need more and better biomarker tests.

“Testing for these measurable indicators can help us predict which patients are most likely to benefit from treatment – which, in turn, allows us to evaluate new treatments in smaller, smarter and cheaper trials, and easier to demonstrate that they are cost-effective.”

Article by
Emily Kimber

3rd February 2023

From: Healthcare



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