Targeted Cancer Therapy

This week I had the privilege of collaborating with Barry H. Kaplan, MD, PhD, QMA’s President, on an article that is slated to appear in Evidence Based Oncology, the oncology journal of the American Journal of Managed Care. The subject is targeted therapy, which Dr. Kaplan describes as the next phase of cancer treatment evolution. Only 7-8% of cancer patients are candidates for targeted therapy, meaning candidates must have a gene mutation matched by a particular gene-targeting or receptor-targeting treatment.

“There is more and more data demonstrating that matching patients to targeted therapies based on the unique molecular profile of the patient’s disease leads to improved outcomes across a variety of key measures, including overall survival”
, says Dr. Kaplan.

The successes are obvious; not so obvious are the non-medical problems.

At the top of the list is:

  • The cost of these drugs
  • The ability of the clinical community to keep up with the complex studies cited in these advances
  • Payer’s ability to assimilate all these rapid fire agents into the formularies

And it’s unclear how many more indications research will discover that can be treated with the various targeted therapies.

Having just returned from ASCO 2017, the American Society of Clinical Oncology’s annual meeting, Dr Kaplan emphasizes, “This is the most wonderful period in all the 40-odd years that I have been treating cancer patients. I see patients who three years ago would not have survived, myeloma patients surviving eight years after diagnosis when a few years ago they would have survived for only three years, and Stage IV non-small cell lung cancer patients surpassing the previously dismal five-year survival rates. The drugs and targeted treatments that are available today can mean these outcomes may soon become the norm.”

It is an exciting time in cancer care indeed!

Written by: Susan Dicosola, MS, CMPE
Executive Director of Queens Medical Associates

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