Hawaii Cancer Advocates Celebrate Passage of Biomarker Testing Resolution

Resolution is First Step in Connecting Patients with the Right Treatment at the Right Time

May 7, 2024

Advocates with the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network (ACS CAN) commend the Hawaii State Legislature for the passage of HCR 53 during the 2024 legislative session. The resolution moves Hawaii one step closer to advancing legislation to expand access to the testing needed to connect cancer patients and those battling other diseases to precision treatments through biomarker testing. The decision by state legislators coincides with the May 1st release of the American Cancer Society’s first-ever Cancer Facts and Figures report for Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and other Pacific Islander people, which highlighted major disparities in cancer cases within these communities.

According to the study, cancer is the leading cause of death in Chinese, Filipino, Korean, and Vietnamese people. Native Hawaiian and other Pacific Islander people are 75% more likely to die from liver cancer. People within these communities are also two to three times more likely to die from cervical, stomach, and endometrial cancers compared to White people. While disaggregated data remains extremely limited, the study can help raise awareness of symptoms and opportunities for prevention, early detection, and treatment. 

Increasing access to biomarker testing for Hawaii residents could be a game-changer in connecting cancer patients with the right treatment needed to battle their disease. 

Biomarker testing is critical to unlocking access to precision medicine, including targeted therapies, which can improve survivorship and quality of life for cancer patients and others with serious illnesses. In addition, biomarker testing could help patients save invaluable time, physical and emotional strain, and money by avoiding treatments that are likely to be ineffective or unnecessary.  

Additionally, over 60% of oncology drugs launched in the past five years require or recommend biomarker testing before use. However, insurance coverage for biomarker testing is failing to keep pace with innovations and advancements in treatment.  

HCR 53 now allows the state auditor to study the social and financial impact on mandated insurance coverage of biomarker testing. The resolution is required for the state auditor to conduct a report and allow bills that include mandated health insurance changes to move forward. 

"Given the high incidence of cancer among our state’s diverse populations, it's all the more important for Hawaii legislators increase access to biomarker testing," said Cynthia Au, ACS CAN Hawaii government relations director. "The study released by the American Cancer Society this week highlights the devastating impact cancer is having on our communities within the Asian American, Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander population ACS CAN looks forward to using this data and working with the state legislature in helping connect patients to the right treatment at the right time."

Cancer patients and survivors overwhelmingly agree – biomarker testing has improved their treatment. 

According to a survey conducted by ACS CAN, over three-quarters of those who have had biomarker testing say it gave their providers valuable information that improved their ability to treat the patient’s cancer. Fifty-three percent say they are more likely to recover because of biomarker testing. Half say they were able to avoid unnecessary treatments or procedures because they had biomarker testing. 

“Generations of my family have been impacted by this terrible disease. Some have survived, others have lost their lives,” said McKalya McCullah, ACS CAN volunteer, Native Hawaiian, and member of the Wai’anae community. “Connecting patients to personalized treatments through biomarker testing is just one way to help ease the cancer burden on everyone. I have faith our state legislators will continue working to increase access to biomarker testing and ultimately pass comprehensive legislation next session.” 

To date, 16 states have enacted legislation to expand access to biomarker testing consistent with the latest medical and scientific evidence. More than 8,600 Hawaii residents are expected to be diagnosed with cancer in 2024, with more than 2,600 expected to die from the disease. 

Media Contacts

Alex Wiles
Sr. Regional Media Advocacy Manager
Las Vegas