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Cancer biomarker tests 'often not available'

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People with cancer may not be administered the most effective treatments because of a lack of access to biomarker tests, a survey has revealed.

Biomarker tests are used to identify patients with particular genetic make-ups or blood proteins that make them suitable for specific therapies, but the cost and bureaucracy within the NHS often renders these tests unavailable.

The online survey of 100 oncologists in the UK revealed that three-quarters of them were having to overcome barriers to the use of targeted medicines.

Half of these oncologists admitted they have prescribed a treatment that was not necessarily the best choice for the patient because they did not have access to these biomarker tests.

A fifth revealed that they administered drugs to patients despite not knowing whether the treatment would be effective.

In recent years, specific drugs have been developed to treat the likes of lung, breast and bowel cancers and leukaemia.

MerckSerono commissioned the survey. Last year, the company announced it would fully fund KRAS biomarker testing for all UK patients diagnosed with bowel cancer.

Consultant medical oncologist at Southampton General Hospital and member of Bowel Cancer UK’s medical board Dr Tim Iveson said: “These findings are extremely worrying. It is simply not acceptable that some patients are not getting the treatment that they deserve.”

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