Decoding the role of Genomic Testing for Precision Oncology

For patients considering genomic testing, engaging in an open conversation with their healthcare team is critical, writes Zoya Brar, Founder, CORE Diagnostics

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About Author: Zoya Brar is the Founder of CORE Diagnostics, a clinical data science company with a center-of-excellence in high end diagnostics. Before succumbing to the entrepreneurship bug, Zoya worked at Google for 2 years in various roles in business development and customer outreach. She has been bestowed with many awards including Diagnostics Leadership Award by Express Healthcare, Dynamic Woman Entrepreneur of the Year by Pharma Leaders, ORA Gold Award by Google, and Women Transforming India Award by Niti Aayog.

Precision oncology offers hope to cancer patients by providing tailored therapies that are specifically designed for their unique genetic makeup. At the heart of this groundbreaking approach is genomic testing. Consider this fact: While diagnostics account for only 3% of healthcare expenses, they determine 75% of downstream costs for therapy, monitoring, and managing recurrence.
Genomic testing delves into a patient’s genetic information, revealing invaluable insights that guide treatment decisions and improve patient outcomes.
Let’s look at a real example. A molecular test for non-small-cell lung carcinoma, for instance, can determine the most effective drug combination for a particular patient. So, how does this translate to patient benefit? The answer is threefold:
First, this allows a potentially third-line therapy to become first-line therapy, thereby cutting the cost of a failed treatment – which is quite frequent in Oncology.
Second, it helps us understand if an immunotherapy (which is extremely expensive, in the tune of $100,000 or more) will actually work, and if yes, which one.
These two benefits are very direct – can be measured in actual dollar terms.
The third benefit is indirect – on the quality of life of the patient, which does eventually translate into productivity and reduction of time lost on part of the family and caretakers.
To add this all up, the total expense on Oncology drugs globally is $200 Billion. This can be cut by 25%, or $50 Billion at the very minimum, while IMPROVING clinical outcomes.
Growing technological empowerment
The advent of next-generation sequencing has been particularly remarkable. It empowers healthcare professionals to analyze multiple genes simultaneously, providing a comprehensive portrait of a patient’s genomic landscape. This enables the identification of rare genetic alterations that might have previously gone undetected.
“I firmly believe that genomic testing should not be seen as a luxury but rather as a vital tool in cancer care.”
Let’s explore another aspect of genetic testing: early detection. Genetic tests enable the early detection of diseases and help identify the risk of developing them. For example, they can significantly impact survival rates by detecting lung cancer or colorectal cancer at an early stage. And there’s more—liquid biopsies, which are non-invasive tests that examine tumor DNA in the bloodstream, show great promise in monitoring treatment response and detecting cancer recurrence earlier than traditional imaging methods.
In summary, genetic testing has a foundational role in allowing precision-therapy to happen – which directly translates to lower overall cost of treatment and better clinical outcome for the patient.
Challenges remain
However, even with all the potential genomic testing holds, there are still concerns and misconceptions that need to be addressed. People worry about the safety and accuracy of these tests, fearing that their genetic information might be mishandled or misinterpreted. It’s important to recognize that genomic testing is a tightly regulated and precise process.
Another aspect that demands our attention is accessibility. I firmly believe that genomic testing should not be seen as a luxury but rather as a vital tool in cancer care. Thanks to recent technological advancements, it has become more available and affordable. Many healthcare institutions have integrated genomic testing into their routine cancer care protocols, ensuring that patients from diverse backgrounds have unhindered access to this transformative approach.
Awareness is critical
For patients considering genomic testing, engaging in an open and candid conversation with their healthcare team is critical. Patients should inquire about the availability of genomic testing, understand its benefits and limitations, and explore the intricacies of insurance coverage for these tests.
It is our collective responsibility as caregivers, healthcare providers, and society as a whole to encourage patients, dispel misconceptions, and to fully embrace the incredible potential of genomic testing.

*This article was first published in the June 2023 edition of the BioVoice eMagazine. The views expressed by the author are her own.