Denver, Colo. – A virtual event held Tuesday morning by the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network (ACS CAN) and U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet (D-CO) highlighted the promise of new blood-based cancer screening technologies that have the potential to dramatically increase early-stage diagnosis for a wide range of cancers and called on Congress to pass the Multi-Cancer Early Detection Screening Coverage (MCED) Act to create a pathway for coverage of these tests once approved by FDA and shown to have clinical benefit.
In his address last month on reigniting his commitment to ‘end cancer as we know it’, President Biden prioritized increased uptake of prevention and addressing health disparities. He also highlighted the potential of MCED to detect more cancers at earlier stages when these cancers are more responsive to treatment.
“I know from personal experience that early cancer detection can make all the difference,” said Sen. Bennet. “That's why I introduced legislation to ensure that Medicare beneficiaries can access the latest, breakthrough screening technologies. With cancer as the second leading cause of death in the United States, we must expand access to early detection tests to help save lives.”
While more research is needed to assess the impact on outcomes multi-cancer screening tests could have, these tests could be lifesaving. But only if individuals have access to them. Because the risk of cancer increases with age – 60% of people who have cancer are 65 or older – Medicare beneficiaries are especially vulnerable and ensuring they have access to this new technology, once approved and proven effective, is critical.
“As a colon cancer survivor, I know the devastating effects of a late-stage diagnosis not only on health outcomes but also on cost. If my cancer had been caught earlier, my prognosis probably would have been far different and my treatment far less costly,” said Morrison resident and ACS CAN volunteer Martha Cox. “We know early detection means fewer lives lost to cancer. This legislation would help dismantle cost barriers and prevent Medicare beneficiaries from experiencing unacceptable delays in access to multi-cancer early detection once approved by the FDA,” said Cox.
Several innovative private and academic entities are currently developing multi-cancer early detection blood-based tests. Published, early data indicate that the tests can screen for multiple cancers at the same time, including rare cancers. These multi-cancer early detection blood tests are designed to complement, not replace, existing early detection tests.
While overall cancer mortality rates have been declining for more than two decades in the United States, racial, socioeconomic and geographic disparities persist. A blood test may be more accessible to Coloradans from historically excluded communities, extending screening opportunities to rural areas of the state and within communities of color by ensuring Medicare coverage once clinical benefit is shown.
“Cancer affects everyone, but it doesn’t affect everyone equally. ACS CAN volunteers are committed to working with their legislators to ensure everyone has a fair and just opportunity to prevent, detect, treat and survive cancer. This includes supporting policies such as the MCED Act that would help bring the promise of multi-cancer testing to more people, no matter their income, the color of their skin, sexual orientation, gender identity, disability status or where they live,” said R.J. Ours, ACS CAN Colorado government relations director.
U.S. Senators Bennet and Mike Crapo (R-ID) introduced the MCED Act, S. 1873, in May 2021. The bill would create a pathway for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) to initiate an evidence-based coverage process for a multi-cancer screening test once it is approved by the FDA and is proven to have clinical benefit. It would also give the Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) authority to cover new multi-cancer technology in the future, without the need for additional legislation.