Barriers to Precision Medicine


Cancer is no longer a “one size fits all” approach to treatment. With the increase of targeted therapies for cancer, providers need to include biomarker or genomic testing to determine the most effective treatment.
Yet there can be some significant barriers to creating a personalized approach for cancer patients. One of the most difficult may be the cost to the patient. Not all insurance providers will pay for testing, deeming it as an “experimental” procedure. Waiting to appeal for coverage or finding financial assistance before testing can delay precise treatment therapies for weeks and potentially months. While providers can attempt to provide treatments that disrupt disease progression, they may not have a similar effect as the targeted treatment, which may impact patient outcomes.
There are also some patients who may need multiple tests during the progression of their cancer – to determine if another targeted therapy is necessary, particularly if there are changes in a tumor’s makeup over time.
Additional barriers include:
  • Access – If a patient lives in a rural or remote area and may not have the ability to easily provide samples, testing could be significantly delayed. Access also plays into a lack of awareness.
  • Turnaround time – Some laboratories may take weeks from the time the tissue or biopsy is gathered until processing and the return of a report. If a practice uses different labs for testing, integration into the EMR may hold up results. As reporting is not standardized, some providers will have to go out to find results, and others may have to interpret results as they are delivered.
  • Lack of Awareness – Genomic testing is changing rapidly. Companies are looking at different ways to perform tests – through tissue biopsies or liquid biopsies. Providers who are focused on maintaining their practice and treating their patients may not have the time or resources to stay up to date on the most recent developments.
The Precision Medicine Center through ION Solutions is available to all community oncologists. The site provides education and resources by tumor, by manufacturer and life sciences partner, for patients, as well as additional resources provided by the Precision Medicine Panel.