LAKE SUCCESS, NY – November 27, 2023 – Local health care providers, cancer survivors, and patient advocates gathered today at the Northwell Health Cancer Institute to call on Governor Kathy Hochul to prioritize health equity by improving access to biomarker testing and signing Se
Calls to Improve New Yorkers’ Access to Precision Medicine Through Biomarker Testing Bring Together Patients and Providers from across Disease Spectrum
Campaign kick-off signals growing support for biomarker testing legislation among leading public health, patient and provider groups
ALBANY, NY – APRIL 19, 2023 – With budget talks nearing an end, key public health, patient and provider groups have launched a campaign to urge New York lawmakers to support Assembly Bill 1673 / Senate Bill 1196. The proposed legislation seeks to improve New Yorkers’ access to precision medicine, requiring all state-regulated health plans, including Medicaid, to cover biomarker testing when it is supported by medical and scientific evidence. Over 60 organizations have rallied together in support of the legislation, citing the efficacy of and praising the innovation in precision medicine.
Biomarker testing is a tool utilized by physicians across a variety of specialties to connect patients to the right treatment at the right time. Utilizing information from patients’ own genes and tissue, biomarker testing unlocks the door to precision medicine, or personalized care. Biomarker testing helps providers to identify the most appropriate treatment for a disease. In cancer care, this can enable patients to receive targeted therapies and is often used in determining a patient’s eligibility for participation in clinical trials.
Biomarker testing is increasingly important for cancer care – and for the treatment of other diseases. Sixty percent of oncology drugs launched in the past five years require or recommend biomarker testing prior to use.
Despite evidence demonstrating the effectiveness of biomarker testing and targeted therapy, currently not all New Yorkers benefit equitably from these advances. There are notable racial and ethnic, geographic and socioeconomic disparities in access and utilization of these advancements in care. Millions of New Yorkers battling cancer and other diseases and chronic illnesses are missing out on precision treatments because their health plans won’t cover the biomarker testing they need.
“Since January, three states have expanded access to biomarker testing, bringing the total number to seven. If New York wishes to maintain its position as a leader in medical innovation, cancer care and public health, then we cannot pass on the opportunity to improve access to biomarker testing this session. Assembly Bill 1673 / Senate Bill 1196 offers the opportunity to improve access to biomarker testing and precision medicine which could result in improved health outcomes, patient quality of life and in some cases cut costs,” said Michael Davoli, Senior Government Relations Director with the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network (ACS CAN).
New Yorkers’ access to biomarker testing will be a key issue in the remaining two months of the legislative session. Lawmakers can expect to see patients rallying at the Capitol, hear from clinical researchers and policy experts on the increasing importance of precision medicine and connect with individuals who’ve benefitted from biomarker testing. First up, ACS CAN will host its Cancer Action Day at the Capitol next Tuesday, April 25 where advocates and survivors from across the state will meet with lawmakers to discuss the importance of biomarker testing in cancer care—and beyond.
As the prime sponsors of Assembly Bill 1673 / Senate Bill 1196, Senator Roxanne J. Persaud and Assemblymember Pamela Hunter will join ACS CAN and its allies next Tuesday to elevate patient voices and urge their colleagues to vote to expand access to biomarker testing. “Biomarkers are an excellent tool for cancer care, amongst other illnesses,” said Senator Persaud. “Biomarkers are essential when determining the best possible treatment for patients. It provides a wealth of information to medical providers and can improve patients' quality of life. This legislation is a step in saving the lives of New Yorkers.”
Assemblymember Hunter continued, "Biomarker testing is increasingly important for effective cancer care. In fact, over half of all new oncology drugs introduced in the past five years require or recommend biomarker testing before use. Expanding coverage of biomarker testing to New Yorkers covered by state-regulated insurance plans, including Medicaid, would ensure that these new treatments are accessible for the most vulnerable, reduce health disparities, and improve outcomes for cancer patients.”
“In the era of precision medicine, biomarker testing is saving lives,” said Robert W. Carlson, MD, Chief Executive Officer, National Comprehensive Cancer Network® (NCCN®). "It is paramount that these tests are covered in order to foster equitable access to targeted therapies for everyone. NCCN recognized the crucial role these tests play with the development of the NCCN Biomarkers Compendium®, a resource for payers, providers, and health care entities to identify evidence-based biomarker testing. NCCN is pleased to see states addressing this critical patient access issue and is proud to join with our broad coalition partners in support of this legislation.”
“Biomarker testing gave me the 'normal' life I've dreamed of since I was a kid,” said Giovanna Whitting Metastatic Thyroid Thriver. “Any story I tell--about my amazing friends, loving family and college career--will include the crucial role biomarker testing played in my survivorship. I wouldn't be here without it.”
"As science advances, it's critically important that health policy and access advance too. Biomarker testing can make the difference between a treatable cancer using targeted therapy and an untreatable one, with benefits for individual patients and the whole health system. We must put what we know about cancer to work for cancer patients,” said Mary Reid, PhD, MSPH, Chief of Cancer Screening, Survivorship and Mentorship at Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center.
“While African Americans have a higher cancer burden and face greater obstacles to cancer prevention, detection, treatment, and survival, improving access to biomarker testing will both save lives and advancing health equity in precision medicine,” said Hazel N. Dukes, President, NAACP New York State Conference. “Despite evidence demonstrating the effectiveness of biomarker testing and targeted therapy, currently not all individuals benefit equitably from these advances. This important legislation will ensure that every patient who needs it, get the testing they need.”
“Biomarker testing has become pivotal in the treatment of many cancers,” said Marc Ladanyi, MD, Chief of the Molecular Diagnostics Service at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. “The knowledge gained from utilizing these state-of-the-art tests in routine patient care enables oncologists to identify the best possible treatments for the patient and helps guide future care for patients and family members who carry germline mutations known to contribute to heritable cancer risk. By expanding access to these technologies, we can improve the lives of patients and, in some cases, their family members.”
“This legislation is an important step to ensuring breast cancer patients in New York are able to benefit from the most effective treatments for their cancer,” said Angelica Katz, Regional Manager of State Policy & Advocacy at Susan G Komen. “Improving timely access to comprehensive biomarker testing is critical, especially when it could mean the difference between a person’s life and death.”
“The rapid evolution of biomarker-based science into clinical care has catalyzed dramatic improvements in cancer therapy, diagnosis, and prognosis,” said Richard Barakat, MD, Physician-in Chief and Director of Cancer at Northwell Health Cancer Institute. “Recognizing that implementation of such clinical testing provides state-of-the-art care to the patients we serve, Northwell created a Center for Genomic Medicine to deliver these innovative approaches as rapidly and cost-effectively as possible, partnering expertise in cancer molecular diagnostics with oncology physicians to improve cancer outcomes in real time. Further, Northwell serves one of the largest and most racially diverse populations in the Nation, and it is an institutional imperative that all patients have equal access to these life-changing advances.”
Peter L. Saltonstall, President and CEO, National Organization for Rare Disorders (NORD) continued, “Currently biomarker testing is often used in oncology, but biomarker testing can benefit patients in many disease groups, including autoimmune diseases, and research is underway that may unlock benefits in other rare conditions. Ensuring all relevant patients can benefit from this quickly evolving aspect of precision medicine is a priority for the National Organization for Rare Disorders.”
Jedd D. Wolchok, M.D., Ph.D, FASCO, Meyer Director, Sandra and Edward Meyer Cancer Center, Weill Cornell Medicine added, “Biomarker testing is an important and essential avenue to personalizing a patient's treatment. It gives us the ability to identify the most effective therapies for helping a patient beat cancer. Insurance coverage for such testing saves lives and reduces health disparities prevalent in the care of many populations in New York.”
Kuldip Dave, PhD, Senior Vice President of Research at the ALS Association said, “The ALS Association supports expanding coverage of biomarker testing. With biomarker testing, ALS patients will be more able to unlock precision medicine's value and cost-savings potential. In ALS care, the best opportunities are for genetic counseling and testing. Without action to expand coverage and access to biomarker testing, advances in precision medicine could exacerbate existing disparities in access to care and, consequently, health outcomes associated with race, ethnicity, income, and geography. Ensuring access to future biomarker testing will help to optimize current treatments and cures for patients living with ALS.”
Tiffany Westrick-Robertson, CEO of the AiArthritis, the International Foundation for Autoimmune & Autoinflammatory Arthritis, said, “There have been biomarkers used for years in autoimmune and autoinflammatory arthritis diseases to streamline diagnosis and to predict more aggressive disease. However, current breakthroughs include blood tests that detect if patients will or will not respond to specific biologic treatments. Since the current treatment protocol is a trial-and-error approach, most patients experience lifelong illness with a high prevalence of comorbidities. Given the average age of onset is 20-40 in adults and any age in children, access to innovative breakthroughs is vital to improving lives and saving the healthcare system millions of dollars.”
"Biomarker testing is key for making sure that cancer patients get the right kind of treatment they need at the right time,” added Yusuf A Hannun, MD, Director, Stony Brook Cancer Center, Vice Dean for Cancer Medicine, Joel Strum Kenny Professor in Cancer Research, Stony Brook University. “It is critical that we expand insurance coverage for comprehensive biomarker testing that can lead to improved survivorship and better quality of life for cancer patients. If we don't take action, disparities in access to cancer care will worsen. Stony Brook Cancer Center supports these research-based innovative treatments, and they should be available to cancer patients, regardless of race, ethnicity, income, and geography."
Richard Lipkin Co-Founder and Co-Chair of the Catalytic Impact Foundation said, “Biomarker testing is critically important to effectively treat many human maladies, from prevalent cancers to rare neurodegenerative diseases. Just as we cannot manage what we cannot measure — we cannot treat what we cannot detect. And sooner, rather than later.”
“Biomarkers can mean the difference between life and death for a patient with cancer,” concluded Ramon Parsons, MD, PhD, Director of The Tisch Cancer Institute and the Tisch Cancer Center at Mount Sinai. “Equitable access to evidence-based biomarker testing is the right thing to do for all New Yorkers.”
Organizations Supporting Assembly Bill 1673 / Senate Bill 1196:
American Association of Clinical Urologists
American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network
American Childhood Cancer Organization
American Kidney Fund
American Lung Association
Association for Clinical Oncology
Association of Community Cancer Centers
Bassett Cancer Institute
Brooklyn College Cancer Center, CUNY
Catalytic Impact Foundation
Colorectal Cancer Alliance
Columbia University Herbert Irving Comprehensive Cancer Center
Community Health Care Association of New York
Exon 20 Group
Fight Colorectal Cancer
FORCE - Facing Hereditary Cancer Empowered
Global Colon Cancer Association
GO2 Foundation for Lung Cancer
Head and Neck Cancer Alliance
Infusion Access Foundation
International Cancer Advocacy Network
International Foundation for Autoimmune & Autoinflammatory Arthritis
Lung Cancer Research Foundation
Lupus and Allied Diseases Association
Medical Society State of New York
Melanoma Research Foundation
Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center
Montefiore Health System
Mount Sinai Tisch Cancer Center
NAACP New York State Conference
National Comprehensive Cancer Care Network
National Infusion Center Association
National Marrow Donor Foundation
National Organization for Rare Disorders
National Ovarian Cancer Coalition
New York Oncology Hematology
New York State Academy of Family Physicians
New York State Association of Ambulatory Surgery Centers
New York State Public Health Association
Oncology Nursing Society
Ovarian Cancer Project
Parent Project Muscular Dystrophy
Patient Empowerment Network
Patients Rising Now
Rochester Regional Health
Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center
Statewide Senior Action Council
Stony Brook Cancer Center
Susan G Komen
Target Cancer Foundation
The Michael J. Fox Foundation
University of Rochester Medical Center
Weill Cornell Medicine
ZERO The End of Prostate Cancer
To learn more about precision medicine, biomarker testing and the effort in New York to expand access, please visit https://www.fightcancer.org/what-we-do/access-biomarker-testing.
About ACS CAN
The American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network (ACS CAN) makes cancer a top priority for policymakers at every level of government. ACS CAN empowers volunteers across the country to make their voices heard to influence evidence-based public policy change that improves the lives of people with cancer and their families. We believe everyone should have a fair and just opportunity to prevent, find, treat, and survive cancer. Since 2001, as the American Cancer Society’s nonprofit, nonpartisan advocacy affiliate, ACS CAN has successfully advocated for billions of dollars in cancer research funding, expanded access to quality affordable health care, and advanced proven tobacco control measures. We’re more determined than ever to stand together with our volunteers to end cancer as we know it, for everyone. Join the fight by visiting www.fightcancer.org.