Underutilization and disparities in access to EGFR testing among Medicare patients with lung cancer from 2010 – 2013


Tumor testing for mutations in the epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) gene is indicated for all newly diagnosed, metastatic lung cancer patients, who may be candidates for first-line treatment with an EGFR tyrosine kinase inhibitor. Few studies have analyzed population-level testing. We identified clinical, demographic, and regional predictors of EGFR & KRAS testing among Medicare beneficiaries with a new diagnosis of lung cancer in 2011–2013 claims. The outcome variable was whether the patient underwent molecular, EGFR and KRAS testing. Independent variables included: patient demographics, Medicaid status, clinical characteristics, and region where the patient lived. We performed multivariate logistic regression to identify factors that predicted testing. From 2011 to 2013, there was a 19.7% increase in the rate of EGFR testing. Patient zip code had the greatest impact on odds to undergo testing; for example, patients who lived in the Boston, Massachusetts hospital referral region were the most likely to be tested (odds ratio (OR) of 4.94, with a 95% confidence interval (CI) of 1.67–14.62). Patient demographics also impacted odds to be tested. Asian/Pacific Islanders were most likely to be tested (OR 1.63, CI 1.53–1.79). Minorities and Medicaid patients were less likely to be tested. Medicaid recipients had an OR of 0.74 (CI 0.72–0.77). Hispanics and Blacks were also less likely to be tested (OR 0.97, CI 0.78–0.99 and 0.95, CI 0.92–0.99), respectively. Clinical procedures were also correlated with testing. Patients who underwent transcatheter biopsies were 2.54 times more likely to be tested (CI 2.49–2.60) than those who did not undergo this type of biopsy. Despite an overall increase in EGFR testing, there is widespread underutilization of guideline-recommended testing. We observed racial, income, and regional disparities in testing. Precision medicine has increased the complexity of cancer diagnosis and treatment. Targeted interventions and clinical decision support tools are needed to ensure that all patients are benefitting from advances in precision medicine. Without such interventions, precision medicine may exacerbate racial disparities in cancer care and health outcomes.

BMC Cancer