A new report commissioned by Cancer Research UK has revealed that thousands of cancer patients in England are not being given a test to see if drugs might benefit them, due to which they are missing out on them every year.

The primary focus of the report was on the NHS’s molecular diagnostic testing service for patients with skin, lung and bowel cancer in the country.

Some of the tests that can identify the genetic faults underpinning a patient’s cancer can be hit with targeted therapies, the report noted.

According to estimations, over 24,000 molecular diagnostic tests were not carried out in hospitals across England in 2014.

Around 16,000 eligible patients with lung and bowel cancers failed to take these tests and a quarter of these patients could not take targeted treatments.

This means that 3,500 of these patients failed to get medicines that could have changed the course of their disease.

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"Molecular diagnostic tests can help doctors to choose more tailored treatments that may improve survival for their patients"

Doctors’ poor awareness of targeted treatments as well as testing served as the main reasons for these missed tests.

Produced by health consultancy Concentra, the report estimates that at least a further £13m is needed to meet the demand for tests.

Cancer Research UK chief clinician professor Peter Johnson said: "It’s lamentable that routine molecular diagnostic testing still hasn’t been established, more than 2 years after Cancer Research UK showed how it can be done with our stratified medicine programme.

"Molecular diagnostic tests can help doctors to choose more tailored treatments that may improve survival for their patients, allow patients to take part in clinical trials and potentially reduce side effects from less effective treatments: they are not an optional extra."

Image: Two doctors studying a cancer test. Photo: courtesy of Cancer Research UK.