Health forum hits the mark on the urgency of lung panel testing and personalized treatment to fight lung cancer

Cancer remains the second leading cause of death in the Philippines, with lung cancer topping the list for cancer- related mortality in the nation. This comes as no surprise as almost a quarter of Filipinos aged 15 years and above smoke cigarettes, increasing the risk of developing lung cancer.

The good news is lung cancer care has improved dramatically over the past decade, thanks to advances in early detection, innovative therapies, and increased understanding that lung cancer treatment is not “one size fits all.”

However, in the Philippines, many cancer patients may potentially miss the appropriate treatment, probably foregoing greater survival and quality of life opportunities.

To raise awareness on the value of lung panel testing and personalized treatment to achieve better patient outcomes, healthcare company MSD in the Philippines, launches “Hit the Mark” campaign through a health forum on March 21, 2024.

Along with partners from patient groups, medical societies, laboratories, and other healthcare companies, the campaign aims to drive equitable access to biomarker testing and other innovative treatment options for lung cancer patients in the Philippines.

Biomarker testing: The key to personalized lung cancer treatment

When it comes to cancer, no two experiences are ever the same, as each person’s cancer holds a unique pattern called biomarkers, or tumor markers, which may impact how specific cancer treatments work. Through biomarker testing, doctors can look for genes, proteins, and other substances that may provide crucial information about how one’s cancer behaves and, in turn, inform personalized treatment options for the patient.

Precision medicine involves delivering the appropriate cancer treatment to eligible patients at the right time. Access to precision medicine may lead to better patient outcomes, helping avoid ineffective interventions and hefty healthcare costs.

However, barriers that prevent patients from benefitting biomarker-driven cancer treatments persist such as logistical issues, sequential or no biomarker testing, lack of funding, and low awareness. Furthermore, as the precision medicine landscape is still relatively new, it remains fragmented, with siloed approaches that still lack standardization and understanding of the patient journey.

That is why during the health forum, Engr. Emer Rojas, a laryngeal cancer survivor and president of the New Vois Association of the Philippines (NVAP), emphasized the need for the full implementation of the National Integrated Cancer Control Act (NICCA) and the adequate funding of the Cancer Assistance Fund (CAF) so that more patients can benefit from accessible diagnostic and laboratory services.

For their part, Dr. Herdee Luna, president of the Philippine Society of Oncologists (PSO) and Dr. Jasper Andal, a pathologist have explained the importance of early detection in improving patient outcomes and overall survival.

Meanwhile, Melissa Ongsue-Lee, vice president of sales and marketing at Hi-Precision Diagnostics (HPD), has discussed how to make nationwide coverage for cancer testing possible through HPD clinics. For the first time, 3 biomarkers — PD-L1, EGFR, and ALK — in a lung panel test have been put together for the benefit of the patient.

Hit the Mark aims that soon, more partner laboratories and the inclusion of more biomarkers will ultimately help all eligible patients get tested and potentially benefit from precision medicine.

Driving equity for testing & innovative treatment through multi-stakeholder collaboration

Given the complexity of the precision medicine landscape, only an intersectoral multi-stakeholder approach including patients as partners can unlock and realize the potential of precision medicine for patients who could benefit.

The From Testing to Targeted Treatments Program is a not for profit, open and global community of practice dedicated to better patient outcomes by bringing to life the potential of Personalized Healthcare. As a collaborative program, FT3 is trying to identify potential collaborative solutions and replicable global best practices to enable more equitable access to precision medicine for those who could benefit. As a global convenor, FT3 is working towards local impact. To implement locally, FT3 brings these global learnings and resources to support champions who can apply them to the local context.

After launching its first two pilots in Spain and Hungary last year, FT3 is embarking on an important journey with the launch of the Philippines pilot program for cancer care. As part of its commitment to improving patient outcomes, this initiative aims to address critical challenges in accessing personalized healthcare.