Patient Advocates Rally in Times Square for New Yorkers’ Access to Precision Medicine, Urge Governor Hochul to Sign Biomarker Testing Legislation
NEW YORK, NY – November 16, 2023 – Earlier today, cancer survivors gathered in Times Square alongside health care providers and patient advocates to emphasize the importance of biomarker testing for the health of New York State, its people and its potential for an equitable, hope-filled future. Attendees of the rally called on Governor Hochul to sign Senate Bill 1196a / Assembly Bill 1673a and reject any attempts to weaken the bill by limiting its scope.
Biomarker testing enables physicians to match patients with personalized care and improve patient quality of life by allowing some to avoid ineffective or unnecessary treatments. Senate Bill 1196a / Assembly Bill 1673a seeks to ensure comprehensive biomarker testing is covered by all state-regulated health plans, including Medicaid, when medically appropriate. The bill passed the Legislature in June with support from over 65 patient and provider groups.
For American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network (ACS CAN) volunteer Mary Carlin, the effort to improve access to biomarker testing is personal. Not only did she benefit from biomarker testing during her breast cancer treatment but, two years later, so did her daughter Charlotte when she was diagnosed with a brain tumor. “Biomarker analysis was critical for my care, critical for me to maximize my chances of being here for my daughter and husband. I am grateful for every single day,” said Mary.
Alongside her mom at the Thursday rally, 11-year old Charlotte said, “Patients need the right medicine at the right time— I am urging Governor Hochul to please sign the biomarker bill today – not tomorrow – not next week, today. Every kid like me deserves a chance to grow up.”
The bipartisan biomarker testing proposal will not just benefit cancer patients. Given that biomarker testing is increasingly important in the treatment of other diseases, including, arthritis and other autoimmune conditions, rare diseases, and preeclampsia, the legislation is disease-agnostic. Research is also happening on the use of biomarker testing to treat other disease areas, including Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and other neurological diseases, cardiology and more.
Zach Hardy, a representative from the Michael J. Fox Foundation joined the rally to emphasize the importance of the disease-agnostic nature of the legislation. He said, “To limit the beneficiaries of this bill is to fail to see the potential that biomarker testing has for countless diseases, including Parkinson’s. There is a day in the not-so-distant future where other diseases are benefitting from biomarker testing in the same exact way as oncology is today.”
Disparities in access to biomarker testing largely exist along racial, ethnic, geographic and socio-economic lines. If not addressed, these disparities could continue to compound and create ever-larger gaps in health outcomes among New Yorkers.
In a statement of support for Senate Bill 1196a / Assembly Bill 1673a, the NAACP New York State Conference said, “We do not want to continue to see our Black and Brown friends and neighbors succumb to illness because they do not have access to care that is available but out of their reach simply because of their socioeconomic status. We urge the governor to consider the explicit contents of this legislation and vote to support patient access to biomarker testing and help save lives. The lives of her constituents of color, now and of future generations, depend on it.”
Thirteen other states have already enacted comprehensive, disease-agnostic biomarker testing bills like the one advocates are calling on Governor Hochul to sign.
“Cancer doesn’t discriminate. It’s time for Governor Hochul to sign the biomarker bill and ensure that every New Yorker who can benefit has equal access to needed biomarker testing,” said Michael Davoli, the Senior Government Relations Director for ACS CAN, during the rally.
Members of the media are invited to interview volunteers and ACS CAN staff about the importance of expanding equitable access to biomarker testing in New York. For more information on precision medicine, cancer biomarkers, current barriers to biomarker testing and ACS CAN’s policy recommendations, visit: www.fightcancer.org/biomarkers.
About ACS CAN
The American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network (ACS CAN) advocates for evidence-based public policies to reduce the cancer burden for everyone. As the American Cancer Society’s nonprofit, nonpartisan advocacy affiliate, ACS CAN is making cancer a top priority for public officials and candidates at the federal, state, and local levels. By engaging advocates across the country to make their voices heard, ACS CAN influences legislative and regulatory solutions that will end cancer as we know it.