Biomarker Testing

No one wants to be faced with a cancer diagnosis. One of the worst parts of a cancer diagnosis, though, is the uncertainty that surrounds it.

Biomarker testing can help alleviate some of this uncertainty. Biomarkers are proteins, genetic changes or other substances in the tumor that provide unique information about your cancer. This is different from inherited or germline genetic testing, which looks at your body’s own genetic changes. Analyzing biomarkers related to your tumor can provide beneficial insight as you move forward with treatment.

How is Biomarker Testing Useful?

Biomarker testing can help determine which treatments can be effective by looking into the unique characteristics of the tumor itself and not just its origin. Targeted therapies and immunotherapies look for specific protein or genetic changes in the tumor to be able to target and attack more precisely. Testing can be performed with tissue from previous biopsies or from blood samples. This means that the treatment you are getting is personalized for you.

Not every treatment will work for every patient and biomarker testing can help eliminate treatments that are unlikely to help. Additionally, some patients are more likely to be faced with recurring or more aggressive cancer. Biomarker testing can not only provide additional FDA-approved options, but also serve as targets in clinical trials. However, not all cancers require biomarker testing and requesting this test needs to be discussed with your oncologist.

Will My Insurance Cover Biomarker Testing?

In March 2023, House Bill 180 was signed requiring Kentucky health benefit plans and Medicaid to comply with biomarker testing coverage requirements. As of Jan. 1, 2024, Kentucky insurance plans cover biomarker testing.

Biomarker testing avoids some unnecessary physical, emotional and economic burdens of disease that would otherwise be assumed by the patient and their insurance provider.

When Should I Talk to My Doctor About Biomarker Testing?

If you are interested in biomarker testing, it is best to talk about this with your oncologist sooner rather than later so that you can receive your targeted therapy as soon as possible.

The UofL Health – Brown Cancer Center is committed to making cancer a disease of the past. Finding innovative, targeted treatments is one way of doing that. For more information or to request a second opinion, call UofL Health – Brown Cancer Center at 502-562-HOPE (4673).

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Article by: Abigail Chan

Abigail Chan, M.D., is a medical oncologist at UofL Health – Brown Cancer Center where she is part of the multidisciplinary gastrointestinal oncology team. She has a special interest in young patients with colorectal cancer and is starting a program for patients diagnosed with the disease before the age of 50. She attended University of the Philippines for medical school, completed residency in internal medicine at Sinai Hospital of Baltimore and completed a fellowship in medical oncology at University of Louisville. Dr. Chan is an assistant professor at University of Louisville School of Medicine.

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