Expert: Improving Disparities in Biomarker Testing Requires Involvement of Multiple Stakeholders

Nicholas Robert, MD, chief medical officer at Ontada, discussed disparities in biomarker testing and how they are being addressed.

In an interview with Pharmacy Times at the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) 2022 Annual Meeting, Nicholas Robert, MD, chief medical officer at Ontada, discussed disparities in biomarker testing and how they are being addressed.

What is pharmacists’ role in biomarker testing?

Nicholas Robert, MD: So, the pharmacist, as anyone knows whose practice is oncology, plays an enormous role. However, in this setting, we had a very special situation. The challenge is identifying the patients who should be tested, and in this case, we're doing a study in identifying patients that would be appropriate for this study. So, we have the ability through Ontada to identify patients that are eligible, but we needed to hand off to someone who can then follow up with the physicians and the teams taking care of those patients. So, we're fortunate to work with a group through US Oncology, a central pharmacy group, that was able to take the hand-off in terms of the list of patients that are potential patients for this study. And then they worked with the practices using a number of methods to communicate with practices to increase the identification of those patients. And in a presentation tomorrow at ASCO, we're going to hear more about the details of that.

What is being done to improve biomarker testing access and rates?

So, there are many stakeholders involved in this in terms of improving testing. Obviously, you know, physicians who take care of their teams, who take care of patients with cancer, want to optimize treatment. So certainly, providing support for those physicians to improve the testing is key. Obviously, the patients want to make sure they get the best treatment, so increasing patient awareness is another effort that we're working with some nonprofits in that direction. And then clearly the life science companies that develop these new products that take advantage of these different targets. They're obviously enthusiastic to find how to find those patients that are potentially eligible for treatments.

Is there anything you would like to add?

The way I would conclude about this area of biomarker testing, is I think we've realized in the last few years that precision medicine is key. But it's a bit of a village. It's not just one person, just like no oncologist would say they take care of and provide comprehensive care to all their patients. It's a team that takes care of the patients. But when you begin to think about managing patients where you need biomarker testing, you need many other members and in addition to pharmacists and nurses, you need pathologists, you need the radiologists who do the tissue biopsies, the surgeons who are involved obviously in the treatment, the radiation oncologist. So, it's actually a group of us working together to optimize patient care.