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Chemosensitivity Tests


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I don't think hospitals usually do this (may a research hospital, like a NCI designated center that has a research arm).

I think you have to go to a lab, but I am not 100% sure on this

Chemosensitivity is still pretty controversial, you can search this web site and search the web for more info. One company that does the tests in given in the link below and there are others but I do not know them all


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I called Oncotech.... they need a fresh sample of tissue or pleural cells. Results available in seven days. It just makes sense to find out what your tumor is sensitive to. I would hate for my husband to just receive what I call "protocol" treatment for six months, only to find out that it did not work. And then, we have to look for a secondary line of treatment. Any thoughts on this, John?

Medicare will pay for this test.


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It worked for someone that Hebbie heard about.

I think they are supposed to be about 90% correct in detecting

what chemo WON'T work and 50-60% correct on what chemo WILL work.

Any extra information in my opinion seems like it would help (it is hard to

figure out with so much information that is contradictory)

I asked about it a long time ago for my mom and most oncs didn't think the results (in a test tube) applied well to in vivo.

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  • 1 month later...

Medicare Contractor Establishes Reimbursement Coverage Policy for Cell Culture Assay Tests

National Heritage Insurance Company (NHIC), the contractor that administers Medicare programs in California, has established a positive coverage policy for Cell Culture Assay Tests known as Chemosensitivity (Resistance) Testing or Oncologic In Vitro Chemoresponse Assays for a tumor specimen from a Medicare patient obtained anywhere within the United States, but submitted for testing by one of the approved laboratories located within Southern California. Medicare bills for this testing are billed through NHIC because the test is conducted by the approved laboratories in California.

This pre-test can help see what treatments have the best opportunity of being successful for "high" risk cancer patients. The test measures the response of "live" tumor cells to drug exposure. Following this exposure, the assays measure both cell metabolism and cell morphology (Functional Profiling). The integrated effect of the drugs on the whole cell, resulting in a cellular response to the drug, measuring the interaction of the entire genome. Assays based on "cell-death" occur in the entire population of tumor cells.

This cell culture assay technology has been clinically validated for the selection of optimal chemotherapy regimens for individual patients. It is a laboratory analysis based on tumor tissue profiling that uses "fresh" human tumor biopsy or surgical specimen to determine which drugs or combinations of chemotherapeutic agents have the highest likelihood of response for individual cancer patients.

Following the collection of "fresh" tumor cells obtained from surgery or tru-cut needle biopsies, a cell culture assay is performed on the tumor sample to measure drug activity (sensitivity and resistance). This will pinpoint which drug(s) are most effective. Tissue, blood, bone marrow, and ascites and pleural effusions are possibilities, providing tumor cells are present. At least one gram of fresh tissue is needed to perform the tests, and a special kit is obtained in advance from the lab. The treatment program developed through this approach is known as assay-directed therapy.

Individualized assay-directed therapy is based on the premise that each patient's cancer cells are unique and therefore will respond differently to a given treatment. This is in stark contrast to standard or empiric therapy, which chemotherapy for a specific patient is based on average population studies from prior clinical trials.

The decision had been made that the assay is a perfectly appropriate medical service, worthy of coverage on a non-investigational basis. What is of particular significance is that they abandoned the artificial distinction between "resistance" testing and "sensitivity" testing and are providing coverage for the whole FDA-approved kit. Drug "sensitivity" testing is merely a point a little farther along on the very same continuum which "resistance" testing resides.

Cell cuture assay tests based on "cell-death" have proven very effective in identifying novel treatment combinations for a variety of cancers. The value of cell-death assays is that they can and do accurately predict clinical outcomes and define novel chemotherapeutic synergies. It can help see what treatments will not have the best opportunity of being successful (resistant) and identify drugs that have the best opportunity of being successful (sensitive).

The current clinical applications of in vitro chemosensitivity testing is ever more important with the influx of new "targeted" therapies. Given the technical and conceptual advantages of "functional profiling" of cell culture assays together with their performance and the modest efficacy for therapy prediction on analysis of genome expression, there is reason for renewed interest in these assays for optimized use of medical treatment of malignant disease.

The payment provided will be sufficiently realistic that all Medicare patients for whom this testing is indicated will be able to get it with only the routine 20% co-payment, as Medi-gap insurance secondaries are mandated to provide payment for co-pays for Medicare-approved services.

The coverage became effective for claims for services performed on or after February 19, 2007. The decision is posted at:

http://www.medicarenhic.com/cal_prov/ar ... t_0107.htm

NHIC Medicare Services reimburses qualified laboratories in Southern California for cell culture assay tests on a Medicare patient anywhere in the United States.

Likewise, Highmark Medicare Services reimburses a qualified laboratory in Pennsylvania for cell culture assay tests on a Medicare patient anywhere in the United States.

NHIC has jurisdiction over Southern California, so that is who gets billed when the laboratory is located in California.

Highmark has jurisdiction over laboratories in Pennsylvania, so that is who gets billed when the laboratory is located in Pennsylvania.

The coverage decision is posted at:

http://www.highmarkmedicareservices.com ... 32007.html

It amazes me not only that some private insurance carriers don't like to pay for cell culture assay tests but that they don't emphatically mandate it as a requirement for obtaining chemotherapy reimbursement against ill-directed treatments.

The validation standard that private insurance companies is accepting from "molecular" profiling tests is "accuracy" and not "efficacy." The "bar" has been instantly lowered. No longer will it be essential to prove that the use of a diagnostic test improves clinical outcomes, all they have to do for these "molecular" profiling tests is prove that the test has a useful degree of "accuracy." However, at the same time, the validation standard they want for "cell-based" profiling tests is "efficacy."

The "cell-based" profiling tests have the same entitlement to be judged by the same validation standard as "molecular" profiling tests. The combination of measuring morphologic (structural) effects and metabolic (cell metabolism) effects constitutes measuring the "profile" at the whole cell level. It must be noted that both types of dignostic tests are just that, "tests" and not treatment.

Profit, as we have seen, is a powerful motivating force. Among the private payors, at least, the profit motive is entirely consistent with the goal of the test, which is to identify efficacious therapies irrespective of drug mark-up rates.

The evidence in support of these assays is more than sufficient to justify the funding of validation trials, if any more truly are needed, as claimed - speciously and self-servingly - by the medical establishment.

Everyone is scared to death - and rightly so - at what is going to happen to the healthcare economic system with the introduction of increasingly expensive new drugs that benefit only a small percentage of patients who receive them, hence the headlong rush to develop tests to identify molecular predisposing mechanisms whose presence still does not guarantee that a drug will be effective for an individual patient.

Nor can they, for any patient or even large group of patients, discriminate the potential for clinical activity among different agents of the same class, such as Sutent, Tarceva, Iressa, and Nexavar.

The FDA could benefit too, as they find themselves under increasing pressure to allow new drugs into marketplace while at the same time protecting the safety of potential recipients of those drugs as well as the financial interests of those who will have to pay for them.

It explains the new paradigm of requiring a companion diagnostic as a condition for approval of new targeted therapies. The pressure, in fact, is so great that the companion diagnostics they've approved often have been mostly or totally ineffective at identifying clinical responders (durable and otherwise) to the various therapies.

I think that in both of these areas - private insurance carriers and the FDA - there is a very real opportunity to make a substantial impact and contribution, an interest in saving the healthcare system perhaps billions of dollars a year (and thereby the healthcare system itself) by ensuring that expensive treatments are used appropriately.

Committee chairpersons, committee members and persons in congress who may have personal interests not only in discovering new cancer treatments - everybody wants that - but also, in the "here and now," using currently-available cell culture assay technologies to improve the effectiveness of existing drugs and save lives today by administering the right drug to the right patient at the right time.

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