NOVARTIS Healthcare Philippines, Inc., launched on April 30 a breast cancer testing program that enables doctors to predict which medications will work better for specific patients.

Called PIK3CA, the test is named after the most commonly mutated gene in hormone receptor positive breast cancer.

“[Patients’] outcomes may improve if they are treated with targeted therapy. I, together with other medical oncologists, will continue to educate and guide our patients so that they can make the informed decision that is best for them,” said Dr. Josephine Tolentino, oncology head of The Medical City (TMC) in Ortigas.

TMC is implementing the program along with Hi-Precision Diagnostics, and the Philippine Society of Medical Oncology (PSMO).

She added that around 40% of those who have this type of cancer, also known as epidermal growth factor receptor-2 negative (HR+/HER2-) breast cancer, have the PIK3CA mutation.

This mutation is often associated with “tumor growth, resistance to endocrine treatment, and a poor overall prognosis,” according to a 2019 study by Novartis.

In a statement, Novartis cited the lack of awareness of the effects of PIK3CA mutation on breast cancer patients as its motivation to roll out the testing program, which is done via tissue samples.

The Philippines has cancer as its third leading cause of death in the first half of 2021, as per the Philippine Statistics Authority. Breast cancer itself is also the third leading cause among cancer-related deaths.

“There is a new target in breast cancer, the PIK3CA mutation. Advanced laboratory testing enables doctors to predict which medicines work better and which do not for specific patients. As such, doctors and patients are able to make educated decisions,” explained Joel Chong, oncology general manager at Novartis Philippines.

“Patients can save money by not taking a drug that may not work for them,” he added.

The cost to the patient is approximately P12,000, with an additional fee for handling outside of the National Capital Region.

For more information, e-mail Hi-Precision Diagnostics at sales.endorsement@hi-precision.com.ph or The Medical City at moleculardx@themedicalcity.com. — Brontë H. Lacsamana