Our policy on molecular diagnostics

graphic depicting molecular diagnostics

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Get in touch with our policy team to find out more information about our work and our policies.

020 3469 8360 

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We want the Government to put a clear policy in place for molecular diagnostic testing, and to work towards creating a molecular diagnostics service across the UK.

Recent developments in cancer research mean that we can now separate cancer patients into different groups based on analysis of their tumours at a molecular level.

As a result, we are now beginning to develop modern medicines which are targeted towards specific patient groups and their cancer type.

This is sometimes referred to as “stratified”, “personalised” or “targeted” medicine. Cancer Research UK is leading the way in this field of research through the Stratified Medicine Programme.

Molecular diagnostic tests help to detect the genetic mutations which allow us to separate patients into groups – but there is currently no clear Government policy on access to such tests within the NHS.

For example, as shown in our report below, around 16,000 patients with bowel and lung cancer in England missed out on these tests in 2014. Around 3,500 of these patients did not receive targeted medicines that could have helped them as a result.

We want the Government to put a clear policy in place for molecular diagnostic testing, and to work towards creating a molecular diagnostics service across the UK.

We also want NICE to ensure that appropriate processes are in place to fairly assess molecular diagnostic tests and stratified medicines.

Commissioning of genetic molecular diagnostic tests for cancer in England

Within the NHS in England, the commissioning arrangements for genetic testing for cancer has been unclear, which has resulted in poor and varied use of these tests and, ultimately, patients being denied access to appropriate treatment.

This was highlighted in last year's Cancer Strategy for England and, as an initial step, NHS England has brought in new commissioning and funding arrangements for an initial six molecular genetic tests. However, whilst some detail was set out in the 2016/17 National Payment System document, there was a lack of clarity as to how these arrangements should be operating on the ground in the NHS in England.

We have worked with the ABPI, BIVDA and NHS England to develop a factual guide aimed at helping to inform clinicians and pathologists of these new arrangements. 

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