Texas oncologists advocate for biomarker testing bill to increase coverage

A bill that would expand access to a cancer test has passed the Texas senate and a house committee. It’s called biomarker testing, senate bill 989.
Published: May. 4, 2023 at 6:37 PM CDT|Updated: May. 4, 2023 at 11:31 PM CDT
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TYLER, Texas (KLTV) - A bill that would expand access to a cancer test has passed the Texas Senate and a House committee.

SB 989 relates to a process called biomarker testing. Biomarkers are the proteins and genes on cancer cells.

“We can use those biomarkers to help us sometimes detect cancer, or detect cancer if it’s coming back, or to guide us in the best treatments for the patient who has a specific type of mutation.” said surgical oncologist for the Northeast Texas Cancer and Research Institute, Dr. Steven Curley.

Curley said biomarker testing allows them to offer more personalized medicine and targeted therapies, rather than the broad chemotherapy regimen that causes long term side effects.

We spoke with Maggie Moore, whose father was diagnosed with lung cancer in 2014. Doctors said he would only live up to four months. After taking a biomarker test, he lived for another eight years.

“You know people think that because he wasn’t cured, was it really worth it? Was the biomarker testing worth it because he was never in remission. But when I think about what we got in those eight years, I don’t care that he wasn’t cured. I don’t care that the biomarker testing didn’t lead to a cure. It lead to more time with my dad.” said Moore.

The big barrier is payment since there is little coverage for it. For this reason, SB 989 was filed to increase access.

“The biomarker bill passage is going to be a big step forward because statistics show that only about half of the eligible patients are able to get testing.” said Dr. Chris Prakash with Texas Oncology.

Prakash has met with legislatures and testified for the bill.

“You know the first step is you got to show them the benefit that it is really really important. So I think everybody sees the benefit of the patients and healthcare in general in this bill. And so I’m optimistic that it’s going to be passed soon.”

“I have got a very simple philosophy, our cancer patients have a lot of fear, a lot of concern because they’ve been diagnosed with cancer.,” Curley added. “You know any kind of thing that we can do to support them and make their lives simpler, I’m all for. So that bill is something I fully support.”

After passing in the Senate and house committee, the bill is on it’s way to the house floor for debate.