Isabel Odriozola, Flickr

It has come to light that new cancer medications are pretty much useless without being accompanied with a genetic test.

As Technology Review reports, here is where the issue lies. Genetic tests aren’t cheap and insurance companies more often than not do not cover the costs involved. This is because most companies consider genetic tests experimental, and therefore won’t front the money.

Robert Doebele from Colorado State University, explained, “These drugs appear to be very effective for certain types of mutations, but sometimes it’s hard to convince oncologists to test for a mutation that might only occur in 1% of their patients. My sense is that they’re worried about their patients getting a $5,000 bill.”

This news is especially concerning, amidst recent announcements of biomarker-guided treatment approaches, including The US Food and Drug Administration’s approval of Merck’s PD-1/PD-L1 inhibitor Keytruda (pembrolizumab) to treat cancers based only on the tumours genetic profiles and not their tissues origin. As well as, Loxo Oncology revealing that it would soon be seeking approval for larotrectinib to treat TRK fusion-positive tumours.