Challenges to Implementation of an Epidermal Growth Factor Receptor Testing Strategy for Non–Small-Cell Lung Cancer in a Publicly Funded Health Care System

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Abstract

Background:

Data from seven recent randomized clinical trials have demonstrated that epidermal growth factor (EGFR) mutation status is predictive of improved progression-free survival and quality of life from first-line EGFR tyrosine kinase inhibitor therapy compared with platinum-based chemotherapy. We examined barriers to the initial implementation of a national EGFR testing policy in Canada.

Methods:

Five laboratories across Canada underwent a validation and quality-control exercise for EGFR mutation testing using reverse transcriptase–polymerase chain reaction with financial support from the pharmaceutical industry for the initial 12 months. Oncologists registered patients with nonquamous histology for EGFR mutation testing using a Web-based platform. Basic demographics were collected including age, histology, sex, smoking status, and ethnicity. The decision to prescribe gefitinib was subsequently registered on the system.

Results:

Between March and December 2010, 2104 requests were received for EGFR mutation testing. Demographic details are as follows: adenocarcinoma (91.6%); Asian ethnicity (13.9%); female (58%); light/never smoker (41.3%); stage IV disease (87.1%). The number of tests requested each month ranged from 200 to 250. Mutation testing was conducted in 1771 of 2104 requests (84%). The median turnaround time for EGFR testing was 18 days (standard deviation 9.7). Gefitinib was prescribed in 302 patients (17.1%). The number of test requests dropped to 50 to 100 per month at the end of the initial 12 months.

Conclusion:

There was rapid uptake of EGFR mutation testing into routine clinical practice in Canada. Uptake of EGFR mutation testing dropped substantially once funding from pharmaceutical industry was discontinued. There is a need for a national strategy to ensure resources are in place to implement molecular testing for new molecularly targeted agents.

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