Clinical OMICS

MAY-JUN 2019

Healthcare magazine for research scientists, labs, pathologists, hospitals, cancer centers, physicians and biopharma companies providing news articles, expert interviews and videos about molecular diagnostics in precision medicine

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Page 47 of 50

46 Clinical OMICs May/June 2019 lvcandy / Getty Images A merica's policy makers are rightly concerned about identifying the best ways to provide access to afford- able health care. Whether it's reforming the Affordable Care Act, or trying to implement "Medicare for all," there is no shortage of discussion about this important topic. So it's a surprise that little attention has been given to an unsound Medicare decision that each year will deprive an estimated 20,000 women access to comprehensive testing for heredi- tary breast cancer. Next-generation sequencing, a technique that can sequence an individual's entire genome in as little as an hour, has the potential to revolutionize medicine. Like other laboratory tests, next-generation sequencing tests analyze specific genes or genetic changes with known relationships to disease. The technique can examine single genes or an entire genome for conditions as diverse as autism and cancer. The breakthrough advance is the ability of next-generation sequencing to rapidly, inexpensively, and simultaneously read the sequences of hundreds to thousands of genes. This can give physicians clinically relevant information that was never before available. In March 2018, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Ser- vices took the promising step of approving payment for next-generation sequencing across the country for Medicare beneficiaries in what's called a national coverage determina- tion. This decision gave people with cancer uniform access to next-generation sequencing tests that allow physicians to prescribe genetically targeted drugs that have been specifi- cally engineered to fight their diseases. Medicare limited payment for testing to patients with "recurrent, relapsed, refractory, metastatic, or advanced stages III or IV cancer." In other words, advanced or lat- By Roger D. Klein, M.D. Medicare Should Stop Blocking Access to Next-Generation Sequencing for People with Hereditary Cancer "Each year, approximately 10 percent of the thousands of people who are diagnosed with cancer have inherited genetic mutations that can be directly linked to their diseases." Bill Oxford / iStock / Getty Images O P I N I O N

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