Broadening Access to Genomic Testing for Cancer Patients

New collaboration formed to provide better access to genomic testing, an innovative approach to cancer diagnosis for the targeted treatment of specific cancers

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Precision Medicine collaboration between Prudential Malaysia, AstraZeneca and Pantai Premier Pathology and witnessed by Khairy Jamaluddin, Minister of Health

Battling cancer is extremely challenging because of its impact on the patient’s physical, financial, and mental well-being.

A tripartite collaboration between Prudential Malaysia, AstraZeneca and Pantai Premier Pathology was launched on 4th April 2022 to pave the way for cancer patients to access genomic testing for a more accurate diagnosis of their cancer based on its genetic profile. Through this collaboration, cancer patients will financially have peace of mind and can look forward to improved treatment outcomes.

This first industry collaboration of this sort was formalised through a signing ceremony between all three parties, witnessed by Khairy Jamaluddin, Minister of Health, who also delivered the keynote address.

Representing their organisations at the signing ceremony were Lim Eng Seong, Chief Executive Officer of Prudential Assurance Malaysia Berhad, Wan Saifulrizal Wan Ismail, Chief Executive Officer of Prudential BSN Takaful Berhad Dr Sanjeev Panchal, Country President of AstraZeneca Malaysia and Hareeff Muhammed, Chief Executive Officer of Pantai Premier Pathology.

Healthcare professionals have long recognised that cancer behaves differently from one patient to another and therefore there is no one-size-fits-all treatment[1]. Precision medicine is an emerging treatment approach that tailors medical care to individuals based on information acquired from genomic testing which reveals the genetic make-up of the disease. An in-depth understanding of how cancer behaves helps doctors plan specific treatments that may improve survival outcomes and quality of life[2].

Challenges in cancer care are multifaceted, demanding continuous action on a national scale. Many obstacles stand in the way of successful cancer care and this includes access to quality affordable treatment. With the aim to bridge the gap between access and affordability, this tripartite partnership will entail Pantai Premier Pathology providing precision medicine diagnosis through their laboratory, Prudential Malaysia improving affordability to the diagnosis through medical insurance/takaful plans and AstraZeneca supporting by way of education on early diagnosis.

Being the first collaboration of its kind, the partners hope that this initiative will pave the way for other like-minded industry partners such as hospitals and insurance/takaful players to join the coalition to help broaden patients’ access to quality, affordable cancer care in the country.

Lim Eng Seong of Prudential Assurance Malaysia Berhad said, “We are delighted to partner with AstraZeneca and Pantai Premier Pathology in this collaboration which synergises our efforts in educating and supporting cancer patients. Prudential Malaysia now extends our coverage to include genomic testing and precision medicine, giving our customers peace of mind that they can be in the best position to focus on their treatment and recovery. This coverage also allows physicians to prescribe clinically suitable treatments and tests from other pharmaceutical companies and laboratories. As their trusted partner in health and protection, we want our customers to face this battle with confidence.”

“We are committed to playing a vital role in reducing the disease burden in the country by broadening access to healthcare and raising awareness on early screening. Through this partnership with key industry players, we aim to bridge the gaps in cancer care, particularly in the areas of affordability and access to cancer treatment. This industry-first collaboration will enable us to take a step further by making innovative treatments such as precision medicine more affordable and attainable to cancer patients, as well as improve awareness of the importance of early diagnosis,” said Dr Sanjeev Panchal of AstraZeneca.

Hareeff Muhammed, Chief Executive Officer of Pantai Premier Pathology said, “Pantai Premier Pathology is constantly keeping up with the demands of modern healthcare, and we are pleased to be one of the pioneers to have a breakthrough service such as genomic testing as part of our cancer care solutions. By being a part of this collaboration, we can continue our mission to make genomic testing for precision medicine more accessible to cancer patients, thereby providing patients with a more comprehensive and affordable suite of healthcare solutions to improve the quality of their health.”

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About Precision Medicine

Precision medicine looks at a patient’s genes, behaviours, and environment to determine unique disease risks and treatments that will work best. This innovative treatment obtains all the information that is unique to the patient to accurately diagnose their illness and find the treatment that will work best for that particular illness. 

Following the data of Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results (SEER)’s non-small cell lung cancer registry in the US, incidence-based mortality among men decreased by 3.2% annually from 2006 – 2013, then decreased more quickly by 6.3% annually from 2013 through 2016, a similar pattern is seen amongst women, and this analysis suggests linking to treatment advances – in particular approvals for and use of targeted therapies.3

While there may be positive statistics on the use of precision medicine and genomic testing, the majority of professional findings have led to a similar conclusion that precision medicine and genomic testing efficacy rely on a patient’s individual clinical characteristics³.

At this time, genetic testing is not yet widely used because of its cost⁴ though there are more than 77,000 genetic tests currently in use, and others are being developed⁵.

³ Abdullah Alanazi, Ismaeel Yunusa, Khaled Elenizi & Abdulaziz I Alzarea (2020) Efficacy and safety of tyrosine kinase inhibitors in advanced non-small-cell lung cancer harbouring epidermal growth factor receptor mutation: a network meta-analysis. Retrieved from Lung Cancer Management.

⁴ The Medical Futurist (2021, July 1) What’s Next for Direct-to-Consumer Genetic Testing? Retrieved from The Medical Futurist: https://medicalfuturist.com/genetic-testing-whats-next/

⁵ Medline Plus (2021, July 28). What is Genetic Testing? Retrieved from National Library of Medicine: https://medlineplus.gov/genetics/understanding/testing/genetictesting/

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[1] LaFee, S. (2021, October 13). At Initial Cancer Diagnosis, a Deeply Personalized Assessment. Retrieved from Regents of the University of California: https://health.ucsd.edu/news/releases/Pages/2021-10-13-at-initial-cancer-diagnosis-a-deeply-personalized-assessment.aspx

[2] American Cancer Society. (2020, April 24). Precision or Personalized Medicine. Retrieved from American Cancer Society: https://www.cancer.org/treatment/treatments-and-side-effects/treatment-types/precision-medicine.html