In China, lung cancer biomarker testing is on the rise

Biomarker testing can play in an important role in detecting cancer early and choosing the correct course of treatment, and it can be critical in dealing with deadly, fast-spreading diseases like lung cancer. China has keyed into its utility, with non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) biomarker testing already prevalent throughout the country, a new report says.

According to research and advisory firm Decision Resources, surveyed oncologists in China pegged the share of NSCLC patients currently receiving EGFR mutation testing at about one-half. But that number is only set to increase, the report says: Within the next two years, China's testing level will be on par with Europe's, and nearly three-quarters of patients will be screened for the mutation by the end of 2016.

Testing for the ALK fusion protein is less frequent, with around one-fifth of patients undergoing testing. But doctors expect those rates to rise, too; China approved Pfizer's ($PFE) Xalkori, a targeted treatment that inhibits ALK and has produced significant overall response data, in January 2013, and the green light for its companion diagnostic followed that September.

But some barriers still stand in the way of testing in China. Respondents in the Decision Resources survey pointed to a reluctance to be tested on the part of patients. High treatment costs and lack of reimbursement for testing can also compound the problem. PRDL, China's national formulary--inclusion in which is key to gaining reimbursement and achieving widespread uptake--doesn't contain any targeted NSCLC treatments, and surveyed oncologists didn't expect that to change with the next version, due out in 2014.

Still, that's not a surefire dealbreaker, Decision Resources Product Director Andreia Ribeiro noted. "Payers report that provinces with surplus funds sometimes agree to reimburse agents without formal PRDL inclusion … Access to targeted agents has been accomplished at the municipal level for certain brands; marketers have been successful in striking deals with social security bureaus in prosperous eastern cities with sufficient budgets to underwrite local reimbursement schemes," she said in a statement.

- read the release

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