In The Know: Analyst answers — Companion diagnostics in oncology

New developments in biomarker identification and companion diagnostics (CDx) are rapidly advancing clinical practice throughout oncology. Looking into the current status of physician awareness, enthusiasm and prescribing habits for CDx for a number of cancers, we spoke to analyst Kira Signer-Romero to dive into recent research based on a survey of specialist physicians. Here she shares her thoughts on the findings.


FirstWord: What makes CDx in oncology an important area for pharmaceutical companies right now?

Kira Signer-Romero: Today, CDx in oncology is a growing area of importance as there are a variety of factors driving the use of these tests. Recently, there's been an increase in the number of precision medicines approved, and CDx play an important role in determining whether or not a patient is eligible for a drug. Also, CDx control reimbursement of and access to therapies, and they identify treatment options you maybe couldn't consider before.


FW: Of the slides included in the report, in your opinion, which depict the most insightful findings of the study?

KSR: The most notable slide for me was page 42, where it shows how many tests are currently in use. The significance of this slide is that 95 percent of physicians are reporting the use of at least one test. While, the average number of tests per physician is 14. That is enormous, and they only expect this number to increase.

Another key slide demonstrating the survey results was slide 36. Here, we show several strong drivers for future CDx use, of which among the strongest are the availability of precision medicines, patient eligibility, reimbursement and identifying more treatment options.


FW: Who would benefit most from the analysis provided in this report?

KSR:  If you're looking at this research from a pharmaceutical perspective, you’re likely to be more focused on how well people understand the process for using the CDx that are required for your drug and what kind of barriers testing might present. While, if you are a test provider, what you’re likely interested in is the competitive intelligence and analysis.


FW: Were there any significant differences in response across the different segments surveyed e.g. medical specialties, geographical regions?

KSR: Personally, I think that the most narratively powerful difference is how much NSCLC stands out. Although each different therapy area that we examine within oncology has its own strong story, they're finding that NSCLC is so advanced where these tests are concerned and that people who are concentrating primarily on NSCLC are showing a greater uptake. I think that speaks to how compelling the justification for these tests is, especially for PD-L1. And so, if you can bring another all-purpose immunotherapy online that is closely linked to a significant biomarker, you can follow the success story in NSCLC just to see exactly how powerful it would be for another IO that would follow the same trajectory.


FW: What was the most notable finding from this research?

KSR: An important takeaway for me is the heavy emphasis on how enormously successful these tests have been in NSCLC. They're in greater use among those primarily concentrating on NSCLC versus other tumors. In a variety of different slides, you can see that NSCLC treaters are generally somewhat more likely to know what their test is, and that there's a commitment to increasing the use of these tests in NSCLC. People really expect this to pay off in NSCLC, and so for me, that is an extremely interesting finding. I would have expected this particular subtype of cancer to be fully saturated in terms of tests. But physicians expect even more success down the line.


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