Patients with pancreatic cancer have a 35% chance of dying before their molecular diagnostic test results return from the lab. At roughly a 23-29% chance, lung, brain, and stomach cancer patients have only marginally better odds of surviving to see the results, as shown below.
Precision medicine enables personalized diagnoses and directs molecular treatments. Companies such as Foundation Medicine [FMI], Myriad Genetics [MYGN], and Genomic Health [GHDX] are delivering on this promise using centralized labs, which provide economies of scale and other cost efficiencies.
Because most cancers grow slowly, oncologists have been content with centralized labs. However, while a molecular diagnostic test can inform life or death treatments, patients with high risk cancer types may not live long enough to benefit. After a doctor takes a tumor sample, typically he sends it to a centralized lab for testing. By the time the results are mailed back, often two weeks have been lost.
Alternatively, on-site cancer tests, such as Cepheid’s [CPHD] forthcoming bladder cancer test, should improve patient care. On-site cancer tests will expedite treatment and lower stress, benefitting patients with aggressive forms of cancer particularly.
As companies begin to develop rapid on-site cancer tests, there will be a large total addressable market to serve. High risk patients stand to benefit disproportionately. According to the American Cancer Society, high risk cancers, defined by a cancer that presents patients at least a 20% chance of passing away before a two week lab test returns, are expected to represent 23%, or almost 400,000, of new US cancer diagnoses in 2015 (as shown below).
Of high risk cancers in the US, lung cancer poses the greatest threat. More than 221,000 cases will be diagnosed in 2015, three times the 70,000 in brain cancer diagnoses, as shown below.
Despite the advantages of on-site testing, in the near-term some tests will continue to be done in centralized labs because of their complexity and concomitant costs. While investing in new equipment and training present short-term obstacles, hospitals and urgent care centers that bring same-day on-site testing to oncology will save lives and ultimately gain market share.