The NHS has been slow to respond to rapid advances in molecular diagnostics which with new treatments for lung cancer are leading to improvements in survival for patients.
This is the warning of a new report, called Molecules Matter, by the UK Lung Cancer Coalition (UKLCC), which says that limits in rapid access to high quality tests are denying some lung cancer patients access to the most accurate diagnosis and the best possible treatments.
Currently, the UK has among the worst five-year survival rates for lung cancer across Europe.
Despite the recent launch of seven NHS genomic testing labs across England, only 3% of pathology departments currently have enough staff; there is a wide variation in the quality of tissue samples being received by pathology labs; and there are significant delays in turning around test results.
The UKLCC is calling for a national, molecular diagnostics quality assurance programme and increases in funding to address the workforce issues in cellular pathology.
“Molecular diagnostics is central to lung cancer diagnosis and treatment. If we are to deliver a world-class lung cancer service more needs to be done to ensure timely and rapid access diagnostic testing for lung cancer patients. The UKLCC is committed to doubling five-year lung cancer survival to 25% by 2025 - and universal and rapid access to high quality molecular diagnostics is a vital element in our ability to reach that target”, says Professor Mick Peake, UKLCC Clinical Lead, Clinical Director, Centre for Cancer Outcomes, Cancer Collaborative, UCLH and Honorary Professor of Respiratory Medicine, University of Leicester.
Carol Stonham, PCRS Vice Executive Chair, says: “This report reinforces the need for early presentation and diagnosis in order to ensure that the newer targeted treatments will be successful in treating lung cancer and determining survival rates.”