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Michael P. Douglas, Stacy W. Gray, and Kathryn A. Phillips

Background: Clinical adoption of the sequencing of circulating tumor DNA (ctDNA) for cancer has rapidly increased in recent years. This sequencing is used to select targeted therapy and monitor nonresponding or progressive tumors to identify mechanisms of therapeutic resistance. Our study objective was to review available coverage policies for cancer ctDNA–based testing panels to examine trends from 2015 to 2019. Methods: We analyzed publicly available private payer policies and Medicare national coverage determinations and local coverage determinations (LCDs) for ctDNA-based panel tests for cancer. We coded variables for each year representing policy existence, covered clinical scenario, and specific ctDNA test covered. Descriptive analyses were performed. Results: We found that 38% of private payer coverage policies provided coverage of ctDNA-based panel testing as of July 2019. Most private payer policy coverage was highly specific: 87% for non–small cell lung cancer, 47% for EGFR gene testing, and 79% for specific brand-name tests. There were 8 final, 2 draft, and 2 future effective final LCDs (February 3 and March 15, 2020) that covered non–FDA-approved ctDNA-based tests. The draft and future effective LCDs were the first policies to cover pan-cancer use. Conclusions: Coverage of ctDNA-based panel testing for cancer indications increased from 2015 to 2019. The trend in private payer and Medicare coverage is an increasing number of coverage policies, number of positive policies, and scope of coverage. We found that Medicare coverage policies are evolving to pan-cancer uses, signifying a significant shift in coverage frameworks. Given that genomic medicine is rapidly changing, payers and policymakers (eg, guideline developers) will need to continue to evolve policies to keep pace with emerging science and standards in clinical care.

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Julia R. Trosman, Christine B. Weldon, R. Kate Kelley, and Kathryn A. Phillips

Background: Next-generation tumor sequencing (NGTS) panels, which include multiple established and novel targets across cancers, are emerging in oncology practice, but lack formal positive coverage by US payers. Lack of coverage may impact access and adoption. This study identified challenges of NGTS coverage by private payers. Methods: We conducted semi-structured interviews with 14 NGTS experts on potential NGTS benefits, and with 10 major payers, representing more than 125,000,000 enrollees, on NGTS coverage considerations. We used the framework approach of qualitative research for study design and thematic analyses and simple frequencies to further describe findings. Results: All interviewed payers see potential NGTS benefits, but all noted challenges to formal coverage: 80% state that inherent features of NGTS do not fit the medical necessity definition required for coverage, 70% view NGTS as a bundle of targets versus comprehensive tumor characterization and may evaluate each target individually, and 70% express skepticism regarding new evidence methods proposed for NGTS. Fifty percent of payers expressed sufficient concerns about NGTS adoption and implementation that will preclude their ability to issue positive coverage policies. Conclusions: Payers perceive that NGTS holds significant promise but, in its current form, poses disruptive challenges to coverage policy frameworks. Proactive multidisciplinary efforts to define the direction for NGTS development, evidence generation, and incorporation into coverage policy are necessary to realize its promise and provide patient access. This study contributes to current literature, as possibly the first study to directly interview US payers on NGTS coverage and reimbursement.

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Robin K. Kelley, Stephanie L. Van Bebber, Kathryn A. Phillips, and Alan P. Venook

Predictive and prognostic biomarkers offer a potential means to personalize cancer medicine, although many reach the market-place before they have been validated, and their adoption is often hindered by variable clinical evidence. Because of this variability in supporting evidence, clinical practice guidelines formulated by panels of subspecialty experts may be particularly important in guiding stakeholders' acceptance and use of new personalized medicine biomarker tests and other nascent technologies. This article provides a structured review of the clinical evidence supporting 4 contemporary biomarker tests in colorectal cancer: K-ras and B-raf mutation analyses, mismatch repair protein testing, and the Oncotype DX Colon Cancer Assay. All 4 tests have been evaluated for guideline inclusion by the NCCN Guidelines Panel for Colon Cancer. This case study shows significant variability in the level of clinical evidence associated with these tests. In the cases of B-raf and mismatch repair protein testing, the available evidence is also inconsistent as it pertains to the specific NCCN Guideline recommendation. Based on this uncertainty in the evidence base, the authors conclude that expert clinical judgment, experience, and consensus may be more heavily weighted than published clinical trial data in the evaluation of new personalized medicine biomarker tests. Potential implications of this conclusion and future directions for research are discussed.

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Julia R. Trosman, Christine B. Weldon, Michael P. Douglas, Allison W. Kurian, R. Kate Kelley, Patricia A. Deverka, and Kathryn A. Phillips

Background: Hereditary cancer panels (HCPs), testing for multiple genes and syndromes, are rapidly transforming cancer risk assessment but are controversial and lack formal insurance coverage. We aimed to identify payers' perspectives on barriers to HCP coverage and opportunities to address them. Comprehensive cancer risk assessment is highly relevant to the Precision Medicine Initiative (PMI), and payers' considerations could inform PMI's efforts. We describe our findings and discuss them in the context of PMI priorities. Methods: We conducted semi-structured interviews with 11 major US payers, covering >160 million lives. We used the framework approach of qualitative research to design, conduct, and analyze interviews, and used simple frequencies to further describe findings. Results: Barriers to HCP coverage included poor fit with coverage frameworks (100%); insufficient evidence (100%); departure from pedigree/family history–based testing toward genetic screening (91%); lacking rigor in the HCP hybrid research/clinical setting (82%); and patient transparency and involvement concerns (82%). Addressing barriers requires refining HCP-indicated populations (82%); developing evidence of actionability (82%) and pathogenicity/penetrance (64%); creating infrastructure and standards for informing and recontacting patients (45%); separating research from clinical use in the hybrid clinical-research setting (44%); and adjusting coverage frameworks (18%). Conclusions: Leveraging opportunities suggested by payers to address HCP coverage barriers is essential to ensure patients' access to evolving HCPs. Our findings inform 3 areas of the PMI: addressing insurance coverage to secure access to future PMI discoveries; incorporating payers' evidentiary requirements into PMI's research agenda; and leveraging payers' recommendations and experience to keep patients informed and involved.