Study: Genetic testing could save millions on cancer care

With cancer treatments boasting staggeringly high pricetags, there's good reason to give such drugs only to patients who can benefit from them. Increasingly, however, it's looking like genetic testing can help with this problem, screening out patients who can't benefit from the drugs and focusing dollars on those who can.

For example, colorectal cancer patients are often treated with Eribtux, a drug that can cost more than $61,000 for a standard 24-dose treatment, thousands of dollars of which may be borne out of pocket by patients.  However, neither Erbitux or Vectibix works in patients with a certain genetic mutation occurring in 36 percent to 46 percent of tumors, research suggests.

A new study has concluded that giving Erbitux only to patients without the mutation could save up to $604 million per year in the U.S., while sparing patients the difficult side-effects it can generate (such as a severe rash). This far outweighs the cost of the $452 genetic test needed to determine which patients have the mutation, researchers note.

To learn more about this trend:
- read this USA Today piece