(Content sponsored by Amgen)
Lung cancer is the third most diagnosed cancer, after prostate cancer and breast cancer in black men and women.¹ However, advances in lung cancer research have led to more personalized treatment options that target specific genetic mutations driving tumor growth, and approximately one quarter of all patients with non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) have a driver mutation.²
We are seeing a critical evolution toward precision medicine and personalized therapies for patients, including biomarker testing and targeted therapies. There’s no doubt that comprehensive biomarker testing with next generation sequencing (NGS) has changed the management of lung cancer. But despite the critical role that biomarker testing plays, not enough Black Americans with NSCLC are receiving NGS testing.³ While awareness of biomarker testing has increased, we know gaps remain in both patients’ understanding and access.
Biomarker testing looks for genes, proteins and other substances that can provide information about a patient’s specific cancer and can help predict the risk of cancer progression and/or potential response to therapy.4 Importantly, these tests can be utilized to help develop a personalized treatment approach for a patient and to monitor treatment outcomes.
It’s important that patients are empowered to both understand what the benefits are with biomarker testing as well as the need to communicate with their healthcare team to make sure they receive testing so those results can help inform their treatment plan.
Shyreece’s Journey: Living Beyond Stage IV Lung Cancer
For many patients, biomarker testing may completely change the course of their lung cancer journey for the better.
Take for example Shyreece Pompey, who shared her journey of finding treatment at the right time after being diagnosed with stage IV lung cancer. She decided to take charge of her own health. She sought more advanced care and got a biomarker test, which determined her tumor had a gene mutation and made her eligible for a targeted therapy.
“After my diagnosis with non-small cell lung cancer, I realized I could either give up hope or fight. My decision to fight and seek more advanced care helped change the course of my treatment journey, thanks to comprehensive biomarker testing,” Pompey tells LUNGevity.
What patients can learn from Pompey’s story is the importance of finding a doctor you can trust. Pompey left rural Michigan to seek more advanced healthcare two and a half hours from home. People living in rural areas typically face more healthcare disparities than those living in the inner city.
Because she advocated for herself and engaged with her doctor, Pompey is still around six years later to accomplish things like earning her master’s degree, becoming a published author, volunteering, and taking care of her grandchildren.
What You Should Do If You Have Been Diagnosed With Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer
It is really important to take a step back, make sure you understand the science behind your cancer, and then sit down with your oncologist to talk about all treatment options. There are many gene mutations observed in lung cancer including EGFR, KRAS, ALK, MET, ROS1, BRAF, RET, NTRK, and HER2. While not all gene mutations have targeted therapies, the number of targeted treatment options for some of these mutations continues to increase. If you’ve been diagnosed with non-small cell lung cancer, be sure to ask your doctor about comprehensive biomarker testing for your cancer.
Questions To Ask Your Doctor
- What gene mutation is driving my cancer and my tumor, and have I had biomarker testing?
- What treatment options are available for this gene mutation?
- If there are no approved treatments for my biomarker test results, are there clinical trials I could join?
- What is my long-term outlook?
- Are there resources to help me navigate this journey?
Is Biomarker Testing Covered By Health Insurance?
Limitations in health care insurance coverage often affect access to biomarker testing as well, which leads to disparities in treatment. Medicare, many private insurers, and some Medicaid plans cover the cost of biomarker testing, if “medically necessary”. If you participate in a clinical trial, the trial may cover the cost of the test.
Financial Assistance Programs To Help You Pay Out Of Pocket Costs, If You Are Eligible
- Amgen’s Biomarker AssistTM www.BiomarkerAssist.com or contact 1-888-4-ASSIST
- CancerCare: http://www.cancercare.org/copayfoundation
- Exact Sciences: www.oncotypeiq.com/en-US or 888-662-6897
- FoundationMedicine: www.foundationmedicine.com/info/detail/for-patients#financial-support
- Patient Advocate Foundation: https://copays.org
If you or someone you know has been diagnosed with non-small cell lung cancer, identifying the specific biomarkers you may have helps you get a fully informed diagnosis. Although your biomarker results may reveal a biomarker that currently does not have an approved treatment, recognize that new treatments are continually being developed, and your testing results may make you eligible for a future treatment option or an available clinical trial.
For more information and patient resources on biomarker testing, go to Lung Cancer Patient Gateway.
- American Cancer Society. Cancer Facts & Figures for African Americans 2019-2021. Available at : https://www.cancer.org/content/dam/cancer-org/research/cancer-facts-and-statistics/cancer-facts-and-figures-for-african-americans/cancer-facts-and-figures-for-african-americans-2019-2021.pdf. Accessed November 1, 2021.
- Friedlaender A, et al. Front Oncol. 2019;9:166.
- Bruno DS, et al. Oral presentation at American Society of Clinical Oncology 2021 Annual Meeting. June 4-8, 2021. Virtual Meeting. Abstract 9005.
- Goosens N, et al. Transl Cancer Res. 2015;4:256-269.