Oncologists Back Legislation to Help Improve Access to Biomarker Testing


Bill 1196 / Assembly Bill 1673 aims to improve access to precision medicine for patients with cancer in New York by requiring all state-regulated health plans to cover biomarker testing when it is supported by medical and scientific evidence.

Image Credit: © Alexey Novikov - stock.adove.com

Image Credit: © Alexey Novikov [stock.adove.com]

A legislation which aims to improve access to precision medicine through biomarker testing for patients in New York advanced through the Assembly Insurance Committee and gained bipartisan backing with unanimous support, according to the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network (ACS CAN).1

Oncologists and cancer survivors from across New York joined at the Capitol in May 2023 to discuss biomarker testing, answer lawmakers’ questions, and ask for their support of this legislation titled Senate Bill 1196 / Assembly Bill 1673.

Now, joins the oncologists and cancer survivors and calls for the bill to be brought to a vote by the Senate and Assembly before the end of the legislative session in June.

“Despite evidence demonstrating the effectiveness of biomarker testing and targeted therapy, currently not all individuals benefit equitably from these advances. There are notable racial and ethnic, and socioeconomic disparities in access and utilization of these advancements in care,” said John Sfakianos, MD, assistant professor of Urologic Oncology, Icahn School of Medicine, Mount Sinai, in the press release. “Differential use of guideline-indicated biomarker testing and targeted therapy can potentially widen existing disparities in cancer outcomes by race, ethnicity, income, and geography. Without action, systemic inequities could be exacerbated rather than reduced.”

The goal of the proposed legislation, Bill 1196 / Assembly Bill 1673, is to improve New Yorkers’ access to precision medicine. This includes requiring all state-regulated health plans, including Medicaid, to cover biomarker testing when it is supported by medical and scientific evidence.2

Biomarker testing has provided numerous advances to cancer care and its role has helped open the door to targeted treatments that can improve survivorship and quality-of-life for patients with cancer.1 This tool is utilized by physicians across a variety of specialties and uses information from patients’ own genes and tissue to provide patients with precision medicine or personalized care.2

Utilizing biomarker testing assists clinicians in identifying and providing patients with the best treatment strategies, can enable patients to receive targeted therapies, and is often used in determining a patient’s eligibility for participation in clinical trials. Additionally, 60% of drugs to treat patients with cancer that were launched in the past 5 years require or recommend biomarker testing prior to use, according to the press release.

While evidence of effectiveness has been shown, some insurance carriers still question whether biomarker testing is in the best interest of patients, leading to some being forced to decide whether to pay out-of-pocket or go without the testing that may connect them with lifesaving treatment.1

Specifically, many minorities, including people of color, individuals with lower incomes and those from rural communities, are being left behind. Many New Yorkers with a cancer diagnosis are missing out on precision treatments because their insurers won’t cover the necessary biomarker testing.

“In 2023, more than 123,810 New Yorkers are projected to be diagnosed with cancer, and nearly 31,320 are expected to die from the disease. The state can work to lower these numbers by prioritizing legislation that will improve access to appropriate biomarker testing. With Senate Bill 1196 / Assembly Bill 1673, we can help ensure more patients across New York have access to this testing,” added Michael Davoli, senior government relations director for ACS CAN in New York, in the press release.

To address these gaps in access to biomarker testing, oncologists, cancer survivors, and more are asking for support of Senate Bill 1196 / Assembly Bill 1673.

“Timely access to guideline-indicated comprehensive biomarker testing can help achieve the triple aim of health care, including better health outcomes, improved quality of life, and often reduced costs,” said Allyson Ocean, MD, attending physician specializing in gastrointestinal oncology at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell Medical Center, in the press release. “Comprehensive biomarker testing can lead to treatments with fewer side effects and longer survival and allow patients to avoid treatments that are likely to be ineffective or unnecessary for some patients. Exposure to unnecessary or ineffective treatments can exacerbate the physical, emotional, and economic burdens of disease.”

1. Oncologists call for improvements in access to biomarker testing as assembly insurance committee signals unanimous support. News release. American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network. May 23, 2023. Accessed May 17, 2023. https://rb.gy/q00vs
2. Calls to improve New Yorkers’ access to precision medicine through biomarker testing bring together patients and providers from across disease spectrum. News release. April 19, 2023. Accessed May 23, 2023. https://rb.gy/jj2jf

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