How a blood test is making cancer care more equitable

We're committed to helping you and your loved ones find personalized cancer care options. That's why we teamed up with WIRED Brand Lab to show how our simple blood test is making targeted cancer therapies more accessible. Produced by WIRED Brand Lab with Labcorp.


Beyond location: How technological advances in diagnostics are redefining cancer care

MANY FACTORS CAN impact the life expectancy of a patient with cancer including access to screening, accessible health care providers, socioeconomic status, race, ethnicity, and even a patient’s zip code. These social factors can be the critical determinants between effective, life saving care or care that arrived too little, too late. Labcorp is working to address equity and access for all patients needing cancer care. This global life sciences company is democratizing oncology care through new technologies, improved access to diagnostic testing, and more inclusive clinical trials.

“If we had equal access to care at all the levels with cancer patients, we probably would be saving 34% more patients.”

Dr. Kashyap Patel
CEO Carolina Blood and Cancer Care Associates and President, Community Oncology Alliance.

Many patients face multiple barriers to care, including the time, cost, and travel often required for diagnosis, treatment, monitoring and participation in clinical trials. For patients with all stages and types of cancer, clinical trials offer innovative approaches to treatment and access to novel agents that are under active development by researchers. Through trials, some patients can receive care and treatment when no standard or curative options may exist. Ultimately, through diverse enrollment, clinical trials advance our understanding of cancer and redefine the standard of care.

Labcorp is taking a multi-faceted approach to close the gap on as many barriers as possible.

For many patients, including those with advanced and recurrent cancer, precision oncology offers an opportunity for targeted treatments when standard of care therapies are no longer viable options. Through advanced diagnostic testing of the cancer, specific characteristics-called biomarkers-can be identified. Labcorp is exploring a liquid biopsy option, which requires only a blood draw, instead of a tissue biopsy, which may require surgery. This solution is focused on FDA-approved therapies, professional guidelines and other biomarkers relevant to clinical trials for which the patient may be eligible.

Liquid biopsy is a simple blood test that can identify tumor DNA, tumor cells, and/or other tumor-specific markers circulating in the blood. This type of test, in conjunction with traditional tissue biopsy, can help a provider better understand the unique and specific genetic alterations of a patient's cancer. These explicit insights can help identify targeted therapies, including those being studied in clinical trials, and allow providers to devise treatment regimens personalized to each tumor's profile. Targeting a specific tumor's vulnerabilities avoids the "one size fits all" approach of more traditional treatment paradigms using chemotherapy and radiation.

More precise and less invasive diagnostics are only one piece of the puzzle, with efficient tests minimizing the risk of complications to make cancer care accessible for more people. With one in five Americans living in rural locations, distance to health care facilities can be a significant barrier. One study found that rural breast cancer patients in the US typically travel three times farther than urban patients for treatment. To overcome the distance and travel barrier, Labcorp has more than 2.000 patient service centers across the US, with hundreds of Labcorp at Walgreens sites offering convenient access. Labcorp also offers access to diagnostics through private doctor's offices, rural and community-based clinics, and at-home phlebotomy visits. The goal is that every patient will be able to find the care they need within ten miles of home.

Labcorp's extensive laboratory network provides patients with the benefits of updated science from the frontlines of oncology research and treatment development-no matter where they live. Test samples are delivered to the specialty labs by direct shipment or delivered by ground and air couriers, wherever the specimen was collected. Efficient testing and reporting allow providers to deliver more agile patient care.

A lack of diversity and inclusion in clinical trials is another hurdle Labcorp aims to overcome. Clinical trials are a crucial part of developing new therapies and treatments. The efficacy and safety of new drugs are determined from the responses of those participating in the trial, which may be limited if the study doesn't include a representative and diverse group of patients. Historically, underserved groups and lower income individuals have been less represented in clinical trials for a number of reasons, including inequity in healthcare access, disease awareness, and logistical challenges that can make participation nearly impossible. For those who may seek out a clinical trial, travel requirements alone can exclude those without means. One study found that about 40% of all patients with metastatic cancer had to drive over an hour, each way, in order to participate in a clinical trial.

Insights from Labcorp's patient outreach program (with more than 125.000 patients opted in and growing) has helped Labcorp improve trial design by more efficiently identifying patients who are eligible to participate. Once a patient is identified and enrolled in a study, their participation can be made less burdensome through the use of decentralized clinical trial (DCT) techniques. Most trials still require an in-person examination, including a range of testing, to determine eligibility and complete enrollment, which may involve some travel. However, Labcorp has partnered with

several organizations that work with community-based healthcare providers to support clinical trials, including initial screening. Some ongoing monitoring throughout the trial can also be facilitated by local patient service centers, nearby clinics, or at-home phlebotomy, in addition to regular follow-ups with the patient's oncologist.

Labcorp also launched Global Trial Source to help all patients, including those from underrepresented populations, find and connect to trials that Labcorp is running.

Global Trial Source is a comprehensive online solution that empowers patients to perform a personalized search of clinical trials tailored to their diagnosis and disease characteristics, and receive updates as new studies become available. The website helps to reduce friction points, such as extensive travel, that can discourage trial participants.

Innovative technologies, access to more proximal care, and broader involvement in clinical trials are game changers for patients playing against the stacked deck of socioeconomic disparities in cancer care. Labcorp's pursuit of answers for all patients in all places-and for the healthcare professionals that care for them-is helping to level the playing field. From pioneering scientific breakthroughs to increasing access to innovative diagnostic tools and therapies, Labcorp's efforts can help more people get the care they need, regardless of socioeconomic status or the zip code they call home.

This story was produced by WIRED Brand Lab for Labcorp.

Meet the Expert

Prasanth Reddy, MD, MPH, FACP

SVP, Global Enterprise Oncology Head, Enterprise Oncology and Labcorp Drug Development

Dr. Reddy is board certified in internal medicine, medical oncology, and hematology.  He has practiced medicine and served in leadership positions for more than 10 years in various clinical settings including academia, private practice, and managed care. 

Dr. Reddy earned a bachelor's degree in microbiology and psychology from Kansas State University, and he earned his medical degree from the University of Kansas Medical Center, where he also completed his internal medicine residency and clinical hematology and oncology fellowship. Dr. Reddy obtained a master's degree in public health through a National Institutes of Health Clinical Research Curriculum Award (K30) and is an alumnus of Harvard Business School. Additionally, he is a fellow of the American College of Physicians and is a Certified Physician Executive.