Oncologists Call for Improvements in Access to Biomarker Testing as Assembly Insurance Committee Signals Unanimous Support

Cancer survivors and their oncologists connected with lawmakers on the impact of biomarker testing in improving cancer patients’ health outcomes and reducing their risk of death

May 17, 2023

ALBANY, NY – MAY 17, 2023 – Earlier today, oncologists and cancer survivors from across New York gathered at the Capitol to answer lawmakers’ questions about biomarker testing and ask for their support of Senate Bill 1196 / Assembly Bill 1673. This legislation, which is being sponsored by Asm. Pamela Hunter and Sen. Roxanne Persaud and maintains bipartisan support, aims to improve New Yorkers’ access to precision medicine through biomarker testing.

Biomarker testing has become a game-changing part of cancer care given its role in opening the door to targeted treatments that can lead to improved survivorship and quality of life. Despite the proven benefits, some insurers are failing to keep pace with innovations and advancements in biomarker testing and treatment. This results in some patients being forced to decide whether to pay out-of-pocket or go without the testing that may connect them with lifesaving treatment. Many people of color, individuals with lower incomes and rural communities are being left behind. Senate Bill 1196 / Assembly Bill 1673 seek to address these gaps in access to biomarker testing.

Senior Government Relations Director for the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network (ACS CAN) in New York Michael Davoli said, “In 2023, more than 123,810 New Yorkers are projected to be diagnosed with cancer, and nearly 31,320 are expected to die from the disease. The state can work to lower these numbers by prioritizing legislation that will improve access to appropriate biomarker testing. With Senate Bill 1196 / Assembly Bill 1673, we can help ensure more patients across New York have access to this testing.”

“Timely access to guideline-indicated comprehensive biomarker testing can help achieve the triple aim of health care, including better health outcomes, improved quality of life, and, often reduced costs,” said Dr. Allyson Ocean, MD, Attending Physician specializing in gastrointestinal oncology at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell Medical Center. “Comprehensive biomarker testing can lead to treatments with fewer side effects and longer survival and allow patients to avoid treatments that are likely to be ineffective or unnecessary for some patients. Exposure to unnecessary or ineffective treatments can exacerbate the physical, emotional, and economic burdens of disease.”

Dr. Balazs Halmos, MD, MS, who currently serves as Director of the Multidisciplinary Thoracic Oncology Program and Associate Director of Clinical Sciences at Montefiore Einstein Cancer Center, continued, “Biomarker test results can serve as a roadmap for the best path when it comes to choosing the optimal cancer therapy for each individual patient. New Yorkers deserve broad and equitable access to such tests to benefit from the best treatments that 21st century precision cancer medicine can offer.”

“Modern cancer medicine is absolutely dependent on biomarkers for many reasons. Oncologists use these markers to determine which anticancer medicines to use, which to avoid (because of lack of efficacy or the increased likelihood of toxicity), the probability of disease recurrence, the tendency to develop other malignancies, and family counseling as well,” said Dr. Larry Norton, MD, FASCO, FAACR, Medical Director of the Evelyn H. Lauder Breast Center at Memorial Sloan Kettering. “It is fair to say that contemporary standard of care for cancers would be impossible without biomarkers. Moreover, almost all new anticancer medicines are developed with knowledge of targetable biomarkers, so the absence of biomarker analysis would bring clinical cancer research to a halt. Indeed 60% of new anticancer drugs approved by the FDA in the last five years require biomarker analysis for their proper use.”

“Despite evidence demonstrating the effectiveness of biomarker testing and targeted therapy, currently not all individuals benefit equitably from these advances. There are notable racial and ethnic, and socioeconomic disparities in access and utilization of these advancements in care,” said Dr. John Sfakianos, MD, Assistant Professor of Urologic Oncology, Icahn School of Medicine, Mount Sinai. “Differential use of guideline-indicated biomarker testing and targeted therapy can potentially widen existing disparities in cancer outcomes by race, ethnicity, income, and geography. Without action, systemic inequities could be exacerbated rather than reduced.”

Giovanna Whitting is a two-time cancer survivor who received biomarker testing when her cancer metastasized from her thyroid to her lungs at 15 years old. “Without the possibilities afforded to me through biomarker testing, I am not sure I would’ve made it to my 16th birthday. The results of my biomarker testing unlocked the door to a targeted therapy that saved me and allowed me to live a full, rich life. I am 21 years old now, a rising college senior and incredibly grateful to be able to advocate for improved access to the testing that saved my life.”

“We are on the verge of making a difference for New Yorkers diagnosed with cancer,” said Mary Carlin, cancer survivor and ACS CAN volunteer from Greater Albany. “I am not only a cancer survivor but a cancer mom; at just 4 years old, my daughter Charlotte was diagnosed with a brain tumor. From our shared experience, Charlotte and I understand the importance of getting the right treatment at the right time. We urge state leaders to prioritize cancer care and sign Senate Bill 1196 / Assembly Bill 1673 into law.” 

Earlier today, the legislation advanced through the Assembly Insurance Committee with unanimous support. ACS CAN joins the oncologists and cancer survivors present at the Capitol today in calling for the bill to be brought to a vote by both the Senate and Assembly before the end of the legislative session in June.

Members of the media are invited to interview volunteers, oncologists and ACS CAN staff members about the importance of expanding access to biomarker testing in New York.




The American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network (ACS CAN) advocates for evidence-based public policies to reduce the cancer burden for everyone.  As the American Cancer Society’s nonprofit, nonpartisan advocacy affiliate, ACS CAN is making cancer a top priority for public officials and candidates at the federal, state, and local levels. By engaging advocates across the country to make their voices heard, ACS CAN influences legislative and regulatory solutions that will end cancer as we know it.


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