Personalized medicine targets treatments to patients based on their individual genetic make-up. The field has exploded in the last two decades but many patients are still not benefitting. This week an important new study in JCO Precision Oncology quantifies – for the first time –where patients are being lost on the journey from diagnosis to treatment. The Reservoir team was proud to contribute to this landmark study.
In the 15+ years I’ve worked on personalized medicine, the field has gone from cutting-edge concept to a widespread approach that has benefitted many patients, particularly in oncology. With targeted therapies making up more than 25% of new FDA approvals in recent years and more than a dozen new molecular diagnostics coming to market each day, the options have multiplied quickly. Personalized, or precision, medicine has become an important and established tool but we know that many patients who could benefit ultimately don’t receive targeted therapies.
The new study is an important step in addressing this challenge, providing a step-by-step breakdown of the gaps along the way where patients who could benefit fall off the path to receiving a personalized therapy. It focuses on patients with advanced non-small cell lung cancer (aNSCLC), 70% of whom have tumors with mutations and a corresponding targeted therapy available.
The research finds that 64.4% of aNSCLC patients who could potentially benefit from targeted therapies do not receive them – in other words, just 1/3 of aNSCLC patients receive a targeted therapy when we know that more than 2/3 have an actionable mutation.
The team identified 7 steps along the way where patients fall off the path to personalized medicine. Some patients do not receive testing, sometimes there is not sufficient tissue extracted to test, sometimes patients with clear test results do not receive a prescription for the corresponding medicine, among other barriers. There is a clear need for more testing and more supports in the system to ensure coordination and appropriate prescribing.
We have important work to do to address these findings. Policymakers, hospital administrators, clinicians, diagnostic labs, patients and other stakeholders must work together to review and improve the process. The first step is to get the word out. Please consider sharing the study or the summary below. Personalized medicine represents an important advance, but patients cannot benefit if they never receive the targeted therapies they need. We must #ClosetheGap and ensure that we have fewer #PatientsLost.