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Severe inequalities exist between countries regarding the availability of an essential lung cancer test and a drug which together can improve outcomes for patients through a personalised approach to treatment.

A new study, published in the European Respiratory Journal (31 March, 2016), has found that despite the test and treatment being available to 70% of the world’s population, there are large discrepancies in patient access. 

In the last 10 years, a group of drugs, known as tyrosine kinase inhibitors (TKIs), have emerged as a treatment for lung cancer patients whose tumour has continued to grow despite chemotherapy. In this group of patients, the drugs work by blocking mutations of specific receptors, known as epidermal growth factor receptors (EGFR), in the cancer cells that help the cells to grow and survive.

It is essential that healthcare professionals identify which patients have mutations of the EGFR, so that these patients can bypass chemotherapy and be prescribed a TKI drug, as research has shown this to be more effective for this group of patients.

The study found that the EGFR mutation test was available in 57 countries – 70% of the worldwide population. The cost was free for 6.5% of the worldwide population. A TKI drug called erlotinib was the most widely available TKI, with 75% of the worldwide population having access to it. However it was only free of charge for the patient in 28 countries (10% of the worldwide population).

Read the ELF press release for more information