Limited access to cancer biomarker testing in Europe, report finds

There is limited access to biomarker testing for cancer in Europe, despite the huge potential of the technology to improve outcomes, according to a new report.

The report from European Federation of Pharmaceutical Industries and Associations (EFPIA) shows the results of research conducted in 2020 to assess the availability, quality and reimbursement of biomarker tests in the EU27 and the UK.

Released in partnership with the International Quality Network for Pathology (IQN Path) and the European Cancer Patient Coalition, the report noted that biomarker tests are becoming an important part of precision medicine.

They can be used in diagnoses and identify patients most likely to response to a treatment as well as predicting and monitoring disease progression, as well as highlighting patients at increased risk of developing a condition.

Unlocking the Potential of Precision Medicines in Europe assesses key biomarkers according to four access metrics – laboratory access, test availability, reimbursement and test order rate.

It also assessed according to three quality metrics – quality scheme participation, laboratory accreditation and test turnaround time.

Findings showed that northern and western countries generally performed well in biomarker testing, reflecting their higher investment in healthcare.

Southern and central European countries as well as the Baltic countries tend to have more variability in access to test infrastructure and funding.

Countries in eastern Europe require more significant structural changes to achieve equity in access to quality biomarker testing.

To provide a pathway for the improvement of access to and quality of biomarker testing in the EU27 and the UK, the study makes recommendations relating to both the short term years and the longer term.

This should help achieve the vision of transitioning to comprehensive and ongoing tumour testing throughout the episodes of care for all patients with a cancer diagnosis.

Parallel approval of the medicine and associated testing, adopting a national system for biomarker test value assessment, dedicated biomarker test budgets, stakeholder education, centralised data collection and horizon scanning are among the short-term recommendations outlined in the study.

In the long term, the study calls for centralised testing infrastructure, harmonised approaches to test development, data sharing and guidelines on comprehensive testing.

Nathalie Moll, director general of EFPIA, said: “We cannot afford to be complacent. Cancer is on the rise throughout Europe.

“It is therefore a matter of urgency to provide physicians and health systems with the biomarker testing infrastructures and processes required in order to deliver the benefits of these therapeutic advances to patients, and to ensure that the pace of innovation can be sustained.”

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