By Paul Crowe, CEO NuView Life Sciences
With testing of new precision cancer diagnostic tools underway, there is hope that many unnecessary invasive procedures may be reduced or even eliminated. Since these new tests are less invasive and easier to administer, like urinalysis to detect prostate and bladder cancers, they should become part of routine health screenings. Cost of these tests will be far less than current diagnostics. An estimated 1.5 million unnecessary negative biopsies are performed annually in the US alone.
Non-invasive molecular imaging technology improves detection of breast and prostate cancers, often eliminating need for these biopsies. More than 161,000 new cases are anticipated and approximately 26,730 men expected to die from prostate cancer in 2017.
The American Cancer Society also estimates that 250,000 new cases of breast cancer will be diagnosed this year and 40,450 women will die. The annual cost of over-diagnosis and false-positive cancer screenings of women age 40-59 is $4 billion. In addition, a U.S. government laboratory found that radiation from tests like the mammogram can change the environment around the breast cells. Within a few weeks after exposure, breast cells may start to prematurely age and can be filled with pre-cancerous mutated cells from the radiation.
Here’s a question to consider: Why are the markets focused so much on therapeutics?
Many treatments for cancer are very costly with new, more effective drug costs skyrocketing. Research has resulted in drugs that slow down or eliminate specific cancers, using the body’s own immune system to fight the disease. However, drug companies have huge investment in R and D and want to recoup their costs. Large profits being made from these cancer-targeting drugs appeal to companies and their investors.
Some experts are questioning how the diagnostic side of cancer medicine will influence therapeutics. With more sensitive and precise diagnostic approaches, subsequent therapeutics will more accurately be recommended for patients who actually need treatment. Using these very exact diagnostics, screening can be done on a routine basis in office visits. More accurate early diagnostic tests will allow therapy to begin soon enough in the disease progression to make it more effective and improve patient outcomes.
So how will hospitals and labs benefit from cancer diagnostics while saving more lives?
In 2010, the population aged 45 to 64 made up 81.5 million persons or 26.4 percent of the population. As the population ages, the need for safe preventive-health screenings will increase exponentially. Laboratories and hospitals that perform these tests stand to earn up to $24.4 Billion annually, if only 20% of the population were screened.
Estimates of a 6.8% growth rate of in-vitro diagnostic tests creates a $72.8 billion market by 2018. Molecular imaging to confirm and visualize suspected breast and prostate cancers is expected to increase to $6.0 billion by 2021. This would lead the way for therapeutics to start early enough to save more lives.
Additionally, this growing diagnostic market can lead to huge savings on the treatment side of cancer costs. Reducing the need for surgical biopsy will cause dramatic savings estimated at $6 trillion annually. The number of false positive results that can lead to unnecessary biopsy could be cut by more accurate molecular imaging scans being done. While currently costly, the amount saved by reducing surgical biopsy and the fear and depression that can accompany a false positive cancer diagnosis is huge.
So how do these tests impact economics and the current testing model? Over 25 million PSA tests are given annually in the US. About four million men exhibit a high PSA; about half of them are recommended for a biopsy. Statistics show that cells examined in 9 out of 10 biopsies are benign.
The opportunity to use precision diagnostics to simplify testing for prostate cancer, as an example, leads to important benefits for patients and the healthcare industry and provides a viable alternative to outdated and less accurate technologies which form the current standards of care.
With diagnostics able to drive a major part of market growth, more health-saving procedures will enter the market to capitalize on this expansion. As one medical investment specialist stated, “As all medicine begins with diagnosis, trends in precision medicine will turn the diagnostics sector from its current moderate value/moderate growth status to one replicating the explosive growth of biotech. Such a scenario will benefit clever entrepreneurs and technically savvy investors alike.”