Promoting the use of biomarkers improves cancer diagnosis and treatment

A new study evaluates the availability, quality and reimbursement of these tests in the European Union

It proposes short and long-term measures to move towards precision medicine that improves, even changes, the prognosis of the disease for many cancer patients


Personalized medicine is here to stay and no one doubts that the future of healthcare passes through it. The adaptation of clinical practice and, specifically, of treatments to each type of patient according to their molecular characteristics is a reality and is giving hopeful results for many patients.

This precision medicine is especially useful in the oncology area, after discovering that cancer is not a disease, but hundreds of different and differentiated pathologies that manifest and develop differently depending on the person affected.

In this sense, tumor biomarker tests are essential tools in the diagnosis and treatment of cancer. They can be used to provide accurate diagnoses and identify patients most likely to respond to treatment. They can also help predict and monitor disease progression and identify patients at highest risk for developing a certain condition.

The use of biomarkers (biological characteristics of the body that can be objectively measured and quantified: any gene, molecule or characteristic derived from tissues or body fluids, including blood), therefore, has become one of the most important clinical tools for patients. oncologists and the development of new therapies. And its spread has significant potential to transform the course of the disease.

This is pointed out by a new study promoted by the International Network for Quality in Pathology (IQN Path), the European Coalition of Cancer Patients (ECPC) and the European Federation of Pharmaceutical Industry Associations (Efpia) and entitled Boost the potential of precision medicine in Europe.

The study presents the results of research conducted in 2020 to assess the availability, quality, and reimbursement of biomarker tests in the European Union (EU), identify country-specific gaps, and develop policy recommendations to improve equitable access and the quality of these tests on the continent.

To provide an improvement in the access and quality of these tests in the EU, the study makes short-term and long-term recommendations to contribute to the transition to comprehensive and continuous tumor testing for all patients with a diagnosis of cancer.

Proposals to move forward

Parallel approval of the drug and associated tests, adoption of a national system for evaluating the value of biomarker tests, increased budget to finance them, training of managers, healthcare professionals and patients, centralized data collection and exploration of new horizons in this precision medicine are some of the short-term recommendations described in the study. As for the longer-term vision, the report suggests creating a centralized testing infrastructure, harmonized approaches throughout the testing development process, data sharing, and clear guidelines on comprehensive testing.

“The EU cancer plan sets out an ambitious vision: to harness new technologies, research and innovation and establish a new approach to cancer prevention, treatment and care. We consider this study to be an important contribution to these efforts, ”says Kathi Apostolidis, member of the ECPC Board of Directors. “One of the key recommendations of the study is to educate physicians, taxpayers, regulators, legislators and, above all, patients about the benefits of biomarker testing. Patients need this knowledge to better understand their condition and have more voice in their treatments, ”adds Ken Mastris, president of the ECPC.

Nathalie Moll, CEO of Efpia, stresses that “there are many reasons to be optimistic about the future of cancer treatment. The development of medicine in oncology is evolving rapidly, thanks to a better understanding of the underlying genetic causes of cancer. However, we cannot afford to be complacent. Cancer incidence is increasing across Europe. Therefore, there is an urgent need to provide physicians and healthcare systems with the necessary infrastructures and resources to deliver the benefits of these therapeutic advances to patients and to ensure that the pace of innovation can be maintained. This study is a solid first step in that direction and we look forward to working with all health and policy stakeholders to make this a reality. ”


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