Only One-in-Three Breast Cancer Patients Offered Potentially Life Saving Genomic Test

Only One-in-Three Breast Cancer Patients Offered Potentially Life Saving Genomic Test
Credit: iStock Photo

A study carried out by Massachusetts health tech company Outcomes4Me suggests that less than 30% of advanced breast cancer patients are undergoing genomic testing that could improve their treatment outcomes.

Of those that were not tested, only 50% appeared to have any awareness that genomic testing was an option. However, when more information was offered almost 90% were keen to undergo testing to help guide their treatment.

Breast cancer treatment has improved dramatically over the last decade, but many new drugs work better for some tumor types than others. Because of this, it is important for women to undergo genetic testing to search for mutations in genes such as PIK3CA, NTRK, and BRCA so that their oncologists can prescribe the best treatment regimen for their cancer and improve their chances of recovery.

“Genomic testing allows doctors to learn more about a tumor’s individual characteristics and ultimately provide the patient with more personalized treatment options,” said Osama Rahma, M.D., Co-Founder and Chief Medical Advisor of Outcomes4Me, which is based in Cambridge.

“Test results can also expand patient access and eligibility for new and innovative treatments including clinical trials, and have been proven to help prolong a patient’s life. Although Medicare and most healthcare insurance companies cover 100% of the costs associated with genomic profile testing, the data shows that most advanced breast cancer patients don’t get their tumor profiled.”

Outcomes4Me has developed a free app and software to help people understand and get the best out of cancer treatment and care. Using their app, Rahma and colleagues carried out a survey of 203 US-based patients with stage III or IV breast cancer, which was presented at the 2020 San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium this week.

The survey participants were asked if they knew about comprehensive genomic profiling for breast cancer patients and were asked if they’d been tested, about whether barriers to testing existed and whether they wanted to find out more about getting tested.

Despite all those surveyed being eligible, only 28% had undergone genomic testing. Of the 147 patients that had not been tested, around half were aware or had some knowledge that it was an option. In the untested group, 88% were interested in getting a test and 85% said they would ask their doctor about arranging a test after they learnt more about comprehensive genomic profiling.

“Despite under-testing, many advanced and metastatic patients are interested in learning more and getting genomic testing,” write the presenters in the conference abstract. “These results are important because they demonstrate the discrepancy between patients’ willingness to get genomic testing and the extent of genomic testing being offered to patients.”