Funding Strategy Needed to Support EGFR Mutation Testing in Canada

Funding represents a decisive barrier to the nationwide implementation of genetic testing for a key lung cancer mutation in Canada, a recent study finds. Patients with non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) who have a mutation in the EGFR gene frequently benefit from treatment with EGFR inhibitors. AstraZeneca, makers of the EGFR inhibitor gefinitinb (Iressa), reimbursed Canadian laboratories for offering EGFR mutation testing to patients with advanced non-squamous NSCLC for 12 months. EGFR mutation testing was rapidly adopted into routine clinical practice in Canada. However, testing rates dropped sharply once the reimbursement program ended. Researchers conclude that a national strategy is needed to provide resources for continued EGFR testing.


Colorado Medicare Will Cover VeriStrat Test for Guiding Lung Cancer Treatment

Colorado’s Medicare provider has announced that it will cover VeriStrat, a test designed to guide decisions about second-line therapies for advanced non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC). The main second-line therapy options in NSCLC include chemotherapy or the drug erlotinib (Tarceva). While Tarceva can significantly improve outcomes in patients with mutations in the EGFR gene, it also benefits some patients without these mutations. VeriStrat, a rapid blood test, helps predict which of these patients would be more likely to respond to Tarceva and which would be better served by other treatments. Medicare coverage will allow many more patients in Colorado to access this useful tool.


Open Letter Urges Administration to Provide Guidance to Protect Patient Access to Clinical Trials

Over 50 medical and advocacy organizations have jointly authored an open letter to the U.S. Administration calling for clear guidance to regulate the implementation of a statute protecting patient access to clinical trials. At present, only 6% of patients with severe chronic illness and fewer than 5% of cancer patients participate in clinical trials. This low participation rate hampers the progress of research necessary to develop much-needed new treatments. To promote and protect patient participation in clinical trials, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (‘Obamacare’) contains a provision that mandates coverage of routine medical costs for people who participate in approved clinical trials. However, the details of implementing this provision are left up to the individual states, which may lead to uneven and unpredictable coverage. The letter points to a 2010 study showing that patients have been denied coverage of their clinical trial costs, even in states that already require such coverage. The letter signatories therefore call for federal guidelines for implementation to be issued before the provision goes into effect on January 1, 2014.


Open Letter Urges Administration to Provide Guidance to Protect Patient Access to Clinical Trials

Over 50 medical and advocacy organizations have jointly authored an open letter to the U.S. Administration calling for clear guidance to regulate the implementation of a statute protecting patient access to clinical trials. At present, only 6% of patients with severe chronic illness and fewer than 5% of cancer patients participate in clinical trials. This low participation rate hampers the progress of research necessary to develop much-needed new treatments. To promote and protect patient participation in clinical trials, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (‘Obamacare’) contains a provision that mandates coverage of routine medical costs for people who participate in approved clinical trials. However, the details of implementing this provision are left up to the individual states, which may lead to uneven and unpredictable coverage. The letter points to a 2010 study showing that patients have been denied coverage of their clinical trial costs, even in states that already require such coverage. The letter signatories therefore call for federal guidelines for implementation to be issued before the provision goes into effect on January 1, 2014.


Open Letter Urges Administration to Provide Guidance to Protect Patient Access to Clinical Trials

Over 50 medical and advocacy organizations have jointly authored an open letter to the U.S. Administration calling for clear guidance to regulate the implementation of a statute protecting patient access to clinical trials. At present, only 6% of patients with severe chronic illness and fewer than 5% of cancer patients participate in clinical trials. This low participation rate hampers the progress of research necessary to develop much-needed new treatments. To promote and protect patient participation in clinical trials, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (‘Obamacare’) contains a provision that mandates coverage of routine medical costs for people who participate in approved clinical trials. However, the details of implementing this provision are left up to the individual states, which may lead to uneven and unpredictable coverage. The letter points to a 2010 study showing that patients have been denied coverage of their clinical trial costs, even in states that already require such coverage. The letter signatories therefore call for federal guidelines for implementation to be issued before the provision goes into effect on January 1, 2014.


Chemotherapy Drug Shortages Compromise Treatment

A survey of 250 U.S. oncologists reveals that there aren’t enough standard chemotherapy drugs to go around, forcing physicians to decide who should get them first. Shortages are worst for drugs recommended to treat blood, gastrointestinal, and pediatric cancers. More than 80% of oncologists reported shortages of preferred drugs in the last 6 months and most had chosen another treatment or switched treatments partway through therapy. Worse, 43% had delayed treatment, 37% had chosen which patients should get the scarce drugs, 20% had reduced doses, and 29% had omitted doses. These findings were presented American Society of Clinical Oncology’s 2013 meeting. The researchers call for guidelines on allocating and making substitutions for scarce drugs.


Chemotherapy Drug Shortages Compromise Treatment

A survey of 250 U.S. oncologists reveals that there aren’t enough standard chemotherapy drugs to go around, forcing physicians to decide who should get them first. Shortages are worst for drugs recommended to treat blood, gastrointestinal, and pediatric cancers. More than 80% of oncologists reported shortages of preferred drugs in the last 6 months and most had chosen another treatment or switched treatments partway through therapy. Worse, 43% had delayed treatment, 37% had chosen which patients should get the scarce drugs, 20% had reduced doses, and 29% had omitted doses. These findings were presented American Society of Clinical Oncology’s 2013 meeting. The researchers call for guidelines on allocating and making substitutions for scarce drugs.


Chemotherapy Drug Shortages Compromise Treatment

A survey of 250 U.S. oncologists reveals that there aren’t enough standard chemotherapy drugs to go around, forcing physicians to decide who should get them first. Shortages are worst for drugs recommended to treat blood, gastrointestinal, and pediatric cancers. More than 80% of oncologists reported shortages of preferred drugs in the last 6 months and most had chosen another treatment or switched treatments partway through therapy. Worse, 43% had delayed treatment, 37% had chosen which patients should get the scarce drugs, 20% had reduced doses, and 29% had omitted doses. These findings were presented American Society of Clinical Oncology’s 2013 meeting. The researchers call for guidelines on allocating and making substitutions for scarce drugs.


Oncologists Uncomfortable with Most New Cancer Drugs

How much are the newest treatments for cancers actually used? Not enough, according to a survey of how confident 100 US oncologists are in prescribing 20 drugs approved between 2009 and 2012. Many new drugs used for common cancers were hardly used by those surveyed, and only four new drugs were prescribed with confidence — and this was by just half of those surveyed. These findings are in the proceedings of the American Society of Clinical Oncology’s 2013 meeting. The researchers call for finding ways to speed the adoption of new cancer therapies.