Oncologists are skeptical of genomics now but see a promising future

Oncologists say genetic testing will have an impact on cancer care in the next decade but voiced concern about coverage.

Oncologists have a complicated relationship with genetic testing. Many see the emerging technology as overpromoted and impractical for patients, but they also recognize the impact genetic testing will have over the next decade.

Approximately 7 in 10 oncologists believe genetic testing is very important or extremely important to oncology, but 55% also say genomic testing is overpromoted, according to a survey released by Medscape. Ninety percent of providers reported that less than half of their patients benefit from genetic testing currently.

But 89% said genomics will be useful in the next decade, compared to 64% who say it’s currently useful.

RELATED: Eric Topol—Technologies, genomics are pushing adoption of personalized medicine

Genetic testing is a critical component of the Precision Medicine Initiative and the Cancer Moonshot. Researchers at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center have said genomic sequence technology and improved data sharing will be critical to advancing cancer care.

One major pain point for oncologists: Insurance coverage. Eighty-four percent of respondents said coverage is too poorly defined, and 78% said insurers should reimburse for genomic testing. Nearly three-quarters of patients are unwilling to pay out-of-pocket for genetic tests.

RELATED: Payers wary of covering 'experimental' genetic tests for cancer

Payers admit they are hesitant to cover genetic tests because many are deemed “experimental” based on the types of genes that are included in many hereditary cancer panels. However, insurers have also faced mounting pressure to cover genetic tests as precision medicine has emerged as a top research priority.

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