With its ability to enable more personalized care, genomic testing is becoming an indispensable tool in oncology care. According to the report's findings, 97 percent of oncologists report it being either somewhat or very important in the diagnosis and treatment of cancer.
Genomic tests can help to identify single genes associated with inherited genetic disorders, indicate a heightened risk for disease, identify genetic variations that may influence a patient's response to oncology treatment, or single out genetic mutations that may be fully or partially responsible for certain hereditary cancers – all of which have significant implications for precision medicine.
"With more precision oncology drugs available, oncologists have grown more dependent on genomic tests to diagnose and treat various malignancies," said Dr. Chadi Nabhan, vice president and chief medical officer of Cardinal Health Specialty Solutions.
In fact, nearly two thirds of oncologists reported routinely using genomic tests to help determine an appropriate or ideal therapy, while nearly one quarter anticipate beginning to use genomic testing over the next year. "As more precision medicines come to market, hospitals and healthcare systems will need to be cognizant of the need to have these tests available with favorable turnaround times that allow for timely administration of therapies," Nabhan added.
Unfortunately, these tests and their results are not always readily available. Fifty-eight percent of oncologists stated that genomic testing is not available at their local institutions, while 36 percent of physicians routinely wait 15 days or longer for results, regardless of whether testing is performed locally or via a third-party vendor. "These delays could have therapeutic implications and create barriers that need to be looked at carefully," said Dr. Nabhan.
Meanwhile, there are also concerns about test selection and interpretation. There are currently thousands of genomic tests on the market, yet oncologists have relatively little guidance as for which tests to select, in which circumstances, and few resources for interpreting the output of testing, including which criteria will be used to select precision medicine treatments.
Currently, 59 percent of physicians report challenges in understanding testing results in a clinical context. This represents a significant opportunity for both manufacturers and academic institutions to provide better, and more, educational resources for prescribing physicians.